Playing the femme fatale ... in the flesh ... is Neve Campbell. Yes, she is naked. Her "no nudity" clause is finally lifted from her contract. There's no better way to celebrate that than in the movie's opening scene. Neve, as 20-something Vera, is taking a shower. The choice of music for this 'glorious' moment is Beethoven's Razomovsky Quartet. Why classical music? She's a painter (artist), she's rich, and she lives in a posh apartment with an interior decor that gives an impression of an art gallery. Most importantly, classical music being classical music has the ability to make even the most nastiest imagery look refined. Everytime the violin-singing Razomovsky Quartet is heard, you will either be seeing 1) Neve naked or 2) Neve in a sexual activity. If the opening "shower" scene is not enough, Toback closes the movie with more of the same scene. When the Bach piano music is heard, that means Neve is not going for the 'glory'.
The two men that Vera plots to pull a cover over are boyfriend Ford (Fredrick Weller) and client Count Tommaso Lupo (Dominic Chianese). Ford is an exceptionally articulate street hustler, very nimble in oratorical theatrics and shamelessly manipulative. He enjoys listening to his own talk as much as he enjoys making others listen to him. He has an interest for young blonde models who can rap and dance, but he has little luck hustling would-be clients - which includes hip-hop artiste Damon Dash - to take them. Not even the Count wants anything to do with them, but he is obssessed with Vera. Ford takes advantage of the 69-year-old Count's obssession to set up an arrangement that allows the Count the pleasure of Vera for $100,000. What Ford does not know is that Vera succeeds in squeezing $1 million out of the Count - a direct reference to Indecent Proposal, Ford and Vera actually mention it by name in a prior scene - and says nothing about it.
When Will I Be Loved is a dud on many levels. The plot is miniscule, the story far-fetched, the characters detestable, the sex scenes are tacked-on, with inconsistent pacing and jarring cross-cuts. On a filmmaking standpoint, the first half is horrid . The whole point of cross-cutting is to keep the dramatic energy going, eventually leading up to a some kind of climax or resolution. That is not the case here. The rapid cross-cutting between Vera taking with Hassan (classical music cue) and Ford discussing - illicit - business with a Russian associate (hip-hop cue) keeps their respective energies separate, diverging but not converging. If there is any kind of climax at all with this editing approach, it is Ford's foursome with the three models he is hustling. The 'casting couch' locale is by the waterfall at a park. If this is not one of Toback's artistic statements, it is an absolutely nonsensical sex scene.
Speaking of the director's artistic statements, he has a lot to say as anthropology professor (of African Studies) Hassan al-Ibrahim ben Rabinowitz. Hassan's very minor role is to offer Vera a job working for him, during which he (Toback) spews a massive amount of pro-racial unity jargon. This monotonous shtick allows Mike Tyson to cameo (as himself claiming not to be himself), just so you know that he can act and improvise. After all that is said and done, Hassan, and whatever the nature of the job he gives Vera, is neither seen nor mentioned again.
The movie picks up momentum late into the second half as Vera craftily plays her men. But it is too little too late. Vera's motivation is not explored enough. It is supposed that she is beginning to explore her sexuality, but it looks like she has not only done this before but also has discovered her (sexual) niche. Ford is a cardboard cutout of the Colin Farrell obnoxious publicist in Phone Booth. He is detestable right from the start. If he is not hollering on his cell phone, he is stiffing an ex-girlfriend with more hollerings in broad daylight. If he is not hustling the products (read: gorgeous women), he is conducting his own 'casting couch' with them. The Count is a page right out of Robert Redford's tycoon character in Indecent Proposal. You get a sense of why he is wealthy but not what makes him tick, other than his obssession with Vera. Conversely, Toback may be making a commentary that old men like young women because of their youthful beauty, while young women like old men because of their wealth.
As a femme fatale drama, When Will I Be Loved is a waste of time. Campbell's 'glory' is the sole redeeming quality, and that is only if you're watching for the sex. Even that does not satisfy as much as it should. Campbell's nudity is limited to the "shower" scenes. She is fully lingerie-clad when making out with a girl behind a curtain (camera shoots at the curtain masking the two women), and fully-clothed when making out with Weller (framed from the waist up). Not much of gratuity when so much trouble is taken to 'cover' it up.
Everything about this flick could be forgivable if it were another episode of Red Shoe Dairies. But it is not. And to believe that When Will I Be Loved is a serious film that the public can really get into is insane. Neither an interesting drama nor a thrilling erotic fantasy.
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