Rating: 3 out of 5
Neve Campbell's performance as Vera, a poor scheming rich girl, in When Will I Be Loved is probably her best ever. The shock of watching her isn't that Campbell does anything particularly different with her manner, voice, or body (apart from appearing naked), but that her recessive chirpiness is shaped into something expressive yet mysterious. She seems to be going through the movie one scene at a time, taking everything in while refusing to let her face betray what will happen next (even if nothing much happens). Vera is essentially a flintier, less likable version of the expert manipulator and sexpot Campbell played in Wild Things.
Wild Things, it should be noted, is more successful at exploitation than Loved is at provocation, despite the superior Campbell performance and director James Toback's best efforts. The central story of Loved, in fact, would've taken up about 45 seconds of that Florida twistathon: Campbell's hustler of a boyfriend Ford (Fred Weller) tries to pimp her out to Count Tommaso (Dominic Chianese), "the Italian media mogul," as at least one character helpfully notes. That's as much as can be revealed without summarizing the entire breezy 80 minutes.
I can reveal, however, that Toback (Two Girls and a Guy) wants to impose his own story on what should be Vera's. You might call this artistic vision, if Toback's story didn't involve so many inexplicable lesbian flings and foursomes.
He also takes his time, cutting back and forth between what seem like the separate stories of Ford and Vera for at least half an hour before the central plot starts to emerge. This allows time not just for several pointless sex scenes, but for Ford to yammer on and convince us, before we ever see him with Vera, of the implausibility of their relationship. The mismatch is so flagrant and intrusive that Count Tommaso must awkwardly ask Vera about it later in the film, prompting an equally awkward and unconvincing answer (this may be intentional, but it doesn't give their relationship any depth). Weller (The Shape of Things) is an insistent actor, and does what he can, but Ford is so transparently, slickly idiotic that it's tough to accept him as part of Vera's life (he's like Toback's surrogate in the movie: a piece that might fit if he knew when to keep quiet).
Even if these early segments undermine later drama, some of them work, running on New York City immediacy--the city manages to look realistic even as it's bathed in golden light. In short, Toback should be credited for the fact that the rambling is only occasionally tedious. He sends his camera on long, roving takes, and when he finally throws in some back-and-forth cutting, it's for a terrific scene between Campbell and Chianese in which Vera coolly asks and answers questions, assesseing their situation and maybe the entire movie. Why the architect of such a scene would insist on then including a sequence where Count's handlers negotiate with a writer about a magazine profile is, like Vera, difficult to understand. Unlike Vera, it's not a fascinating question mark. Toback's devotion to such an inclusive view made me think -- but mostly of how much he must've liked She Hate Me.
With its New York glow, New York sidewalk digressions, and universal bookending shower scenes, Toback has synthesized second-tier Woody Allen, second-tier Spike Lee, and second-tier softcore porn (well, maybe first-tier; Campbell is relatively famous) into something both watchably larkish and disappointing. It doesn't announce Neve Campbell's transformation into a stunning actress -- but it does make clear that she's ready to be used by a better director.
The DVD includes commentary from Toback and a collection of four "sexplorations" of Campbell's naughtiest scenes with comments from her and Toback.
If you spill that wine, you're never gonna be loved.
Facts and Figures
Run time: 81 mins
In Theaters: Friday 24th June 2005
Box Office Worldwide: $159.4 thousand
Distributed by: IFC Films
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 32%
Fresh: 23 Rotten: 50
IMDB: 4.5 / 10
Cast & Crew
Director: James Toback
Producer: Ron Rotholz
Screenwriter: James Toback
Starring: Neve Campbell as Vera Barrie, Frederick Weller as Ford Welles, James Toback as Professor Hassan Al-Ibrahim Ben Rabinowitz, Alex Feldman as Alexei, Mike Tyson as Himself, Joelle Carter as Sam, Cara Hamill as Cara, Lori Singer as Herself