Love In The Time Of Money

on November 01, 2002 by Annlee Ellingson
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There has been a string of ensemble cast romances recently--last fall's "Sidewalks of New York" comes to mind--but Peter Mattei's "Love in the Time of Money" sets itself apart by forming a chain of relationships that come full circle to end on a positive (if tragic) note.

The film begins with the most obvious association between love and money--a prostitution transaction. It's Greta (Vera Farmiga)'s first time doing it for a price, but her client, Eddie (Domenick Loombardozzi), doesn't, let's say, get his money's worth, so he lets the Jackson bill flutter out of her grasp and abandons her in a deserted warehouse district in Jersey. After the credit roll, we run into Eddie again. Turns out he's a contractor and has been hired to do an estimate for a nursery ("For plants?" he asks) for a wealthy housewife who mixes alcohol with her medication for entertainment. Ellen (Jill Hennessy) is starved for amorous attention and seduces him right on her kitchen floor.

Later that night, Ellen hosts a dinner party and, tired with the conversation about money, suggests they discuss something else: sex. Her husband is uninterested, however, and she later finds out why when she says, "I want to sleep with other men," and he replies, "I do, too." The sequence of events continues in this matter through four more characters, all linked by their dysfunctional romantic relationships, until we meet up with the prostitute again. This time around, she determines that there are some things she won't do for money, after all, and it proves to be a turning point in her life.

But there is a ninth character in the film that appears in every scene: New York City. From the minimalist, modern Manhattan apartment to the artist's loft stacked with awful paintings, from a nondescript cubicle in the financial district to the industrial machine shed where the story ends, the setting (thoughtfully production designed by Susan Block) speaks to the characters, granting already excellent performances even more depth.

While the story structure works well, the film's tone is slightly uneven. Aside from the very opening scene, the first few encounters are light and funny, milking the cultural disparity between a blue-collar carpenter and a bored socialite and an awkward flirtation between a newly out executive and a failed painter for laughs. But the latter scene, and the movie itself, ends on a melancholy note that's more serious than other ensemble romances--and more depressing. Starring Steve Buscemi, Rosario Dawson, Vera Farmiga, Michael Imperioli, Carol Kane, Adrian Grenier, Jill Hennessy, Malcolm Gets, Domenick Lombardozzi. Directed and written by Peter Mattei. Produced by Lisa Bellomo, Joana Vicente, Jason Kliot and Gretchen McGowan. A Thinkfilm release. Drama. Rated R for a disturbing violent image, strong sexual content and language. Running time: 90 min

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