Somebody To Love

on September 27, 1996 by Christine James
   Rosie Perez ("It Could Happen To You") stars in this slow-paced, unfocused dramatic comedy as Mercedes, a wannabe actress who earns her living as a "taxi dancer", a woman employed by a nightclub to dance with patrons for a fee. She lives in a motel and dates a deceitful has-been actor (Harvey Keitel), and the only thing that keeps her going is her firm belief that one day she'll be a star. But she's swimming upstream against a torrent of sleazebags and manipulators, some of whom she's naive enough to believe; others she tries, fruitlessly, to fight.
   A club customer, the good-hearted, hard-working Ernesto ("Judgment Night's" Michael DeLorenzo), falls (inexplicably) heels-over-head for Mercedes, even emblazoning his chest with a humongous, tacky tattoo of her name. She feels a little sorry for Ernesto and allows him to ingratiate himself into her life, though she makes it clear there'll be no romance involved. But Ernesto's devotion never flags; he even engages in some questionable business to earn enough money to win Mercedes' heart. Still, because she's remains simply not interested, there comes a point where any outcome would be exasperating: If Mercedes falls for Ernesto, it would be either for the money or because she's worn down by his stalking her; if she doesn't, then lovesick Ernesto ends up alone. There's nothing to root for, not even Mercedes' acting career;there's never a glimmer of hope she'll make it.
   The audience is kept from feeling sympathy for the depressing lives of all involved by numerous injections of humor, but the jokes and satirizations are not quite frequent or funny enough to make this into a fun black comedy. Instead, you don't know what to feel, deadening any dramatic impact the film is supposed to have. All the performances are strong (though one wonders if Keitel has his agent negotiate a pants-dropping scene in every movie contract he signs. Be warned: This time the trouser-shedding reveals horribly unflattering leopard-skin bikini briefs). Produced by the same company that made "Leaving Las Vegas," "Somebody to Love" could have been a great showcase for Perez had the script taken a more defined turn as a comedy; an underdog-wins-in-the-end theme would have also helped immensely. Steve Buscemi ("Fargo") is fantastic but underused as a sage and sensitive transvestite taxi dancer.    Starring Rosie Perez, Harvey Keitel, Michael DeLorenzo, Steve Buscemi and Anthony Quinn. Directed by Alexandre Rockwell. Written by Alexandre Rockwell and Sergei Bodrov. Produced by Lila Cazes. A Legacy Pictures release. Drama/comedy. Running time: 101 min.
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