When Will I Be Loved

on September 10, 2004 by Bridget Byrne
The hustle has always seemed more exciting than the payoff for James Toback. "When Will I Be Loved" is no exception to this filmmaker's own idiosyncratic rules of conduct. He's hustled up a few ideas--some half-baked, some pithy--and thrust them together in a format that is more erratic and want-to-be erotic posturing than dramatic art.

Onscreen are many of the things you expect to see in a Toback movie--lingering shots of a naked woman; rough sex often enacted in public view; loquacious talkers; cameos by friends of the director (in this case a brief appearance by boxer Mike Tyson portraying someone who may or may not be Mike Tyson); a role of his own for the director, despite his marginal acting skills; some clever observation of human folly; and an overriding sense that everyone is obsessed by their own interests, at the cost of everybody else.

Neve Campbell plays Vera, a spoiled little rich girl who appears to be compliant, well-mannered, intelligent and sensitive, but is actually pursuing a well-calculated agenda that is totally at odds with the perceptions others--including her doting parents, her pimp lover and the smooth old billionaire the lover rents her to--have of her. The exception is the college professor whose assistant she claims she wants to be. But he's played by Toback, so, of course, he's not going to be emotionally out-hustled by her, as the others eventually are.

Campbell is suitably enigmatic, but whether that's just because it suits the part or because she needed to play her cards close to her chest (exposed though it is) as the semi-improvised script unfolded during filming, it's hard to say. Frederick Weller as Vera's sleazy lover and Dominic Chianese as the Italian mogul with at least a million to hand out on a whim can't make the characters seem more than mere pawns in the elaborate game Toback is playing, with his focus locked firmly on the girl in the middle.

Some of the best snapshot moments do convey the natural bump-and-grind intermingling of cultures, ambitions and conflicts of life in New York City, and the use of Steadicam and the clash and crossover sounds of both classical and hip-hop music work well to make the movie appear at times to be more substantial than the quick hustle it actually is. Starring Neve Campbell, Frederick Weller and Dominic Chianese. Directed and written by James Toback. Produced by Ronald Rotholz, Robert Bevan, Keith Hayley, Charlie Savill and Piers Tempest. An IFC release. Drama. Rated R for strong sexuality, nudity and language. Running time: 81 min

Tags: Neve Campbell, Frederick Weller, Dominic Chianese, James Toback, Ronald Rotholz, Robert Bevan, Keith Hayley, Charlie Savill, Piers Tempest, IFC, Drama

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