Dir/scr: James Toback. US. 2004. 81mins.
A risky title is likely to provoke a cynical responsein When Will I Be Loved', as American auteur James Toback offers anexasperating fusion of sex, lies and self-indulgence. Thriller elements in theplot might suggest that Toback is working in a more commercial vein but thefilm-noir style machinations are just a foundation for a typically long-windedexcursion into sexual politics, power games and verbal jousting.
Thematerial should attract Toback admirers and exasperate everyone else, whichsuggests a modest theatrical life domestically along the lines of Two GirlsAnd A Guy and Black And White, and a future as a festival attractionin the international market. In the US, the film has taken just over $150,000:First Look Media has international rights.
Setin a sun-dappled New York, Toback's film explores a world where everyone is ahustler and every conversation is a sales pitch. An initial jazzy rhythm splitsthe focus between self-deluding, small-time wheeler dealer Ford (Fred Weller)and his girlfriend Vera (Neve Campbell), a self-possessed rich girl with icewater in her veins. The cross-cutting between characters is even more brutallyemphasised by an intrusive use of music-Vera's scenes unfold to lyrical GlennGould performances, Ford's are accompanied by contemporary hip hop sounds. Thesoundtrack becomes like a contest between competing radio stations.
Cursedwith verbal diarrhea, Ford spins his fabricationsand tries to convince himself more than anyone else that he is on the cusp of afuture as a big-time movie producer. His one decent connection is to Italianmedia mogul Count Tommaso Lupo (Dominic Chianese) and that only exists becauseLupo is infatuated with Vera. In an echo of Indecent Proposal, Lupo would evenbe willing to pay a million dollars for the pleasure of her company.
Thefocus of the film eventually settles more on Vera, a free spirit who lives in apalatial loft apartment and turns the heads of every man she meets. She isintent on working as an assistant for Hassan al-Abrahim (Toback), a professorof African-American studies but her real occupation seems to be man eater.Every man she meets (and some women) is fair game and Ford is just the latestunsuspecting victim to be stuck in her web.
AlthoughVera is eventually revealed as an archetypal femme fatale in the hard-boiledtradition of Barbara Stanwyck (Double Indemnity) or Kathleen Turner (BodyHeat), Campbell doesn't quite project the icy resolve or smoky allure thatthe character requires. Ungallantly, you wonder why quite so many men wouldmake such a fuss over her. Ford's helpless sucker is saddled with so muchdialogue that again you wonder why everyone is so tolerant of his hopelessschemes and lame excuses.
Ironically,love is the last thing on anyone's mind as they all compete for an extra edgeor advantage in the race to dominate. Sadly, the characters lack the depth andrichness that might keep you interested, the dialogue is reminiscent of sharperexchanges from the pen of a David Mamet or a Neil LaBute and such elements as aMike Tyson cameo and Toback's own role as Hassan al-Abrahim underline the airof self-indulgence.
Prodco: LittleWing Films, Rotholz Pictures
US dist: IFCFilms
Int'l sales: First Look Media
Exec prods: Robert Bevan, Keith Hayley, Charlie Savill
Prod des: ErnestoSolo
Music: Oli"Power" Grant
Main cast: NeveCampbell, Fred Weller, Dominic Chianese, James Toback, Barry Primus, KarenAllen, Mike Tyson, Lori Singer