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WHEN WILL I BE LOVED

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Neve Campbell, Dominic Chianese, Fred Weller
Director: James Toback
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: MGM
Features: See Review
Length: 81 Minutes
Release Date: January 25, 2005

"Listen to me very carefully. My whole mission on this planet right now in relation to you is to introduce you to yourself. You know that. You're a deeply sexual human being. You have major erotic power."

Film ***

Writer/director James Toback is quite a master when it comes to richly detailed character studies, and his latest piece, When Will I Be Loved, mixes in his usual observance of characters with a touch of contemporary noir. It doesn't go in the direction you might expect it to, and the final act of the film is certainly a surprise.

The movie serves as a pure revelation for actress Neve Campbell, who has ventured miles and miles away from her days on Party of Five, as well as the star of the Scream franchise. She is the central focus of the film as Vera, a young twenty-something who seems to want to discover something about herself. She's a daughter of wealth, which would lead one to question why she choose to have a conniving hustler such as Ford (Fred Weller) for a boyfriend.

The main plotline involves a business opportunity Ford proposes to Vera. He wants to make some quick cash, and as much as possible, and being aware of Vera's strong level of sexuality, he insists that she sleep with billionaire Italian media mogul Count Tammaso (Dominic Chianese). As it turns out, the aging count happens to have a thing for young beautiful woman, and will most likely pay handsomely for such an encounter.

Vera doesn't hesitate to accept the offer. Ford sets up the meeting, and the plan is set. The count is immediately charmed by Vera's very presence. Being nothing short of awestruck by her beauty and personality, the count offers money not simply for sex, but as a simple gesture or gift because of her splendid qualities.  

During their meet, Vera's cash request starts at $100,000, which then quickly jumps to $1,000,000. Both amounts are of no problem for the count to dispose. After a lengthy exchange of words, the count provides the money, then engages in a seduction act, and that's that.

I don't want to hint at what follows in the third act of the film because it is something of a stinging surprise. A gesture is committed by a character that comes out of nowhere, and it doesn't stop there. The turn of events concludes with an incident that nobody can predict. And what the final shot suggests will most likely have you stunned.

If anything, When Will I Be Loved can be considered a companion piece to another film from last year, Closer, which also explored the dark side of love and betrayal. Although the latter film is a far superior one, both films are deeply involving and brutally honest portraits of couples in love who face harsh consequences as a result of one's actions. Both films explore this theme in different approaches.

BONUS TRIVIA: As he did in James Toback's Black and White, Mike Tyson briefly appears as himself.

Video ***1/2

This is a most terrific anamorphic release. The observant cinematography from Larry McConkey produces some sharp visuals which turn out very nicely in this presentation. Colors are strikingly natural, in addition. Though I detected a slight instance of image softness, this is indeed a most exceptional video handling from the folks at MGM.

Audio ***  

This is a purely dialogue driven film, which is given a boost by a few hip hop beats on the soundtrack, as well as a few Beethoven pieces performed by Glenn Gould (talk about an odd combination). Dialogue is heard in magnificent clarity, making this indie release quite a solid sound in the 5.1 digital format.

Features **

Featured is a commentary track with James Toback, selected scene commentary with Toback and Neve Campbell, a trailer for this and several additional MGM titles.

Summary:

Nothing is always what it first seems to be. Such is the case with the surprise that is When Will I Be Loved. Neve Campbell scorches this screen as entirely new form of femme fatale.

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