Related Articles: Movies, All

When Will I Be Loved

Wacky Indie Fare with Art-House Ambitions

Written and directed by the self-styled auteur terrible James Toback, who built his claim to indie-fame on the celebrated 1978 cult classic Fingers, When Will I Be Loved unfolds like a breezy tour of Manhattan's low and high life, laced with serendipitous encounters, fleeting celebrity sightings, and scattered moments of fascination.

The film's central plot revolves around Vera (Neve Campbell), a bisexual twenty-something uptown vixen who, Indecent Proposal-style, is pimped out by her sleazeball boyfriend Ford (Frederick Weller) to an aging Italian media mogul, Count Tommaso Lupo (Dominic Chianese). Until this plot kicks in, however, Toback treats his audience to a series of largely improvised snapshots of Vera and Ford going about their separate daily lives that lasts some 30 minutes and reveals as much about their characters and the pulse of his hometown as it does about Toback's own personal obsession with sex in the city and his lead actress (who drops it all for the maestro in the film's steamy opening shower scene). By the time the two of them meet in Vera's trendy new Tribeca loft, paid for by her doting, wealthy parents, audience's cannot help but wonder why on earth a seemingly intelligent woman like Vera would waste her time with a boisterous hustler like Ford. Then again, it's a Toback flick, and in his self-indulgent musings on gender relations, class, and money in the Big Apple, where Hip Hop rules the streets and Glenn Gould soothes the ears of aesthetes and the well-to-do, everything is fair game.

Laced with stylistic déjà vus and social commentary that betray Toback's fondness for the improv-heavy cinema of Jean-Luc Godard and Robert Altman, When Will I Be Loved plays like the impromptu spoken word performance of an eccentric urban hipster, who has the balls to sit in on a poetry slam but ultimately fails to fully connect with his audience for lack of depth, substance, and originality.

For all its shortcomings, the film still makes for an intriguing vehicle for Campbell, who helps move this tart film along as she transforms Vera's character from a nubile object of desire into a capricious, scheming and persuasive modern-day femme fatale, who is always a few steps ahead of the men in her life. Whether she or the filmmaker will be loved, however, is for the audience to decide.

Stars: 2.5 out of 5