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MGM Studios DVD presents
When Will I Be Loved (2004)

"The easiest thing, and the most selfish, would be to convince you to lend yourself to one person, even if that one person was myself. That would be suffocating to you, and ignoble of me. That's what a hustler would do, and I refuse to hustle. I'm looking to lead you down the path of Ovid and Sappho, D.H. Lawrence, Edna St. Vincent Millay, to say nothing of the whole hip hop revolution. It's the path of the Bible. 'Seek and ye shall find.' ' Know thyself.'"
- Ford (Fred Weller)

Review By: Matt Peterson   
Published: January 24, 2005

Stars: Neve Campbell, Fred Weller, Dominic Chianese
Other Stars: Karen Allen, Barry Primus, Mike Tyson, Lori Singer
Director: James Toback

MPAA Rating: R for strong sexuality, nudity and language
Run Time: 01h:21m:04s
Release Date: January 25, 2005
UPC: 027616917188
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- C-C+B C+

DVD Review

James Toback's When Will I Be Loved is so drippingly nihilistic in its view of relationships and humanity that it manifested as one of the most depressing films I have seen in quite some time. Intelligent, edgy romantic thrillers are hard to come by, and most vindicate themselves with some kind of appropriate comuppance—a "revenge" tale of sorts that rights wrongs and sets two lovers on fittingly divergent or convergent paths (take Mike Nichols' recently successful Closer). I can see what this boldy experimental, seemingly improvisational film is trying to accomplish with its fractured narrative, but it founders in a haze of moral confusion.

Vera (Neve Campbell) is a rich girl. Newly fitted with a swank New York loft filled with designer furniture and curtains, the young debutante is discovering life. Traces of her parents' continuing influence are readily apparent, but she is no longer a girl, and is ready to live the pampered life on her own. Vera is also a deeply sensual person, ready and willing to hit up unknown men on the street for phone numbers, and engage in an impromptu sexual encounter with a female friend. She is exploring her femininity in every sense of the phrase, fully aware of her physical assets and how to use them to her advantage.

Her boyfriend, Ford (Fred Weller), is a desperate hustler, maintaining a façade of wealth and power while hiding his empty bank account. He charges through Times Square, cell phone blazing, trying to cut the next deal. His newest possession, Vera, may be the key to his success. A business acquaintance of Ford's, the uber-wealthy Italian media mogul Count Tommaso (Dominic Chianese), has spotted her assets from afar on several occasions. He wants a meeting with the young beauty. Ford knows Vera is his only bargaining chip with the wealthy businessman, and using his charm and good looks, hopes to exploit her beauty to his benefit. After some convincing and rough sex, he convinces Vera to meet the mogul, who offers her $100,000 merely as a token of appreciation for her beauty. Right. Vera knows more is at work; her boyfriend is pimping her, and the mogul is buying her. Revenge is in order. They're both forgetting one thing: she doesn't need the money.

Toback's script relies on some heady exposition that takes off during a debate between Vera and the Count, but degenerates into verbal nothings elsewhere. Toback wants us to believe the comeuppance that ends the picture is fitting, but Vera is as deplorable a human being as Ford and Tommaso; her relationships amount to mere bouts of carnality. Why is she hanging around a leech like Ford? For his good looks, his smarts, and because "he's a good lover" as she proclaims. Deep...very deep. She is a willing participant, not a victim.

The film's structure plays like a radio dial, fragmenting scenes of verbal oozings into short bits, intercutting them with other scenes of oddities (such as a yelling Mike Tyson...I'm not kidding). The distracting source music switches in turn, ranging from hip hop to classical strings. The sex seems forced and distasteful, and the lofty score tries in vain to elevate these cheap scenes of mere titillation. Despite these distracting qualities, the film features some lush, exquisite steadicam work that creates some fine mise-en-scene that allows the actors to breathe; Fred Weller and the beautiful Neve Campbell turn in some intriguing performances.

Are we supposed to see the character of Vera as this despicable creature? Somehow, the film doesn't seem to be trying to convince me of this. I found this downright unsettling. Are we living in such a trivial, money grubbing world? If so, where is the condemnation of such decay? In a final gaze of redemption, Vera looks into a mirror after yet another extended shower sequence. What is she pursuing? Love? When will she truly be loved? Judging from her carefree, questionable conduct, no time soon.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C-


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: MGM's anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer is problematic. The image looks excessively dark throughout, and fleshtones have a distinct red push. Detail ranges from good to muted, and although there is some grain, the print is rather clean. Still watchable, but the color timing seems off.

Image Transfer Grade: C+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 5.1 audio is serviceable. Its appropriately front-heavy, and the surrounds are engaged only for ambient fill. LFE supports the source cues nicely.

Audio Transfer Grade: B


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 16 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
6 Other Trailer(s) featuring Code 46, Wicker Park, De-Lovely, Raging Bull, Confessions of an American Girl, Kiss the Bride
4 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by writer/director James Toback
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: RSDL

Extras Review: The extras begin with an audio commentary by writer/director James Toback. Apparently this film was shot in 12 days, and edited over the course of eight months. Interesting. Toback's comments are lofty, yet insightful. Too bad we needed a commentary to decipher some of the film's finer points.

Next is a collection of four—not "explorations," mind you, but Scene Sexplorations (how tasteful), or brief discussions with Neve Campbell and James Toback on the more titillating scenes in the movie. Segments include A Nice Hot Shower (03m:03s), Girlfriends (01m:47s), Ford's Big Score (01m:55s), and A Tryst with a Twist (02m:13s). Following each discussion is the option to watch the selected scene, or return to the special features menu. I dare you not to be creeped out by Toback in these bits.

Finally, the film's theatrical trailer, some other trailers (titles listed above), and a brief cover art gallery of "more great MGM releases" rounds out the disc.

Extras Grade: C+


Final Comments

James Toback's nihilistic look at romantic revenge is unintentionally depressing, and sadly fragmented. It features some good visuals and performances, but founders in a morally bankrupt haze. Perhaps this is the point of the picture. I wasn't convinced.


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