The latest picture from often-controversial director James Toback ("Two Girls and a Guy"), the picture starts Neve Campbell as Vera, the product of rich parents and who currently lives in a pricey New York loft. She's the girlfriend of Ford (Fred Weller), although we wouldn't know this from the introductions, which set the two apart and show them on their own terms - a "professor" trying to hustle her (unsuccessfully) and him trying to hustle and create the hustle, telling everyone he meets that he can get them a meeting with rap mogul Damon Dash, including a few women he fools around with in the middle of Central Park.
Ford's latest scam involves Count Tommaso (Dominic Chianese), an Italian millionare who finally offers what he's really interested in - Vera. Vera accepts the proposal, but what's she really interested in - the $100,000 isn't exactly something she needs. The remainder of the picture has Vera manipulating pretty much everyone, and Campbell plays her perfectly. Sensual (this is the first time Campbell has done a nude scene and, I must say, she looks good), smart and funny, the performance is expert. Ford, as with the other characters, just underestimate Vera right and left. He tells her that she's eventually going to like girls - this, after we've just seen her have a fling with a female friend who stopped by her apartment.
The fact that the picture is often improvised is a blessing and a curse, with some scenes feeling a tad awkard and others achieving a nice, natural rhythm. Choices like having contrasting music - classical, then hip-hop, then classical - also feels a little jarring. According to Toback's commentary, the film was shot in a matter of 12 days, and looks good, considering. The performances are very good, though. Weller makes Ford a watchable fool - the kind of hustler that everyone can see through, yet he manages to continue to try and offer his rap to anyone that'll listen. Chianese also is successful, playing an intelligent older gentleman who is fascinated by the cynical young woman - he and Campbell maintain a nice verbal sparring match in their scenes.
The fairly brief picture nonetheless creates an interesting atmosphere, builds up the characters well and clicks the plot into motion pretty well. It's a little rough at times and there's some flaws in this quickly-shot, low-budget pic, but Campbell's performance holds it all together well.
VIDEO: "When Will I Be Loved" is presented by MGM in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. I didn't see the film theatrically, so I don't know if the film was intended to look like it does here. Fox's recent "Paparazzi" had an overwhelming orange tone that took away from the image, making flesh tones orangish. Now, "When Will I Be Loved" has oversaturated-looking colors that often make flesh tones look reddish. Aside from that, the picture looked fine. Sharpness and detail were often satisfactory, although small object detail was a bit lacking.
Edge enhancement was present in some scenes, as was a bit of shimmering. No pixelation was spotted, however, nor were any print flaws. The colors appeared oversaturated and, seemingly as a result, flesh tones looked unnatural.
SOUND: "When Will I Be Loved" is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. The film may be in 5.1, but it's largely a dialogue-driven feature. The mixture of different musical styles is spread nicely across the front speakers, but the rear speakers really never enter in to provide reinforcement of the music, or any sound effects. Dialogue remained fairly clear throughout, although the recording seemed slightly less-than-stellar.
EXTRAS: Director James Toback provides an audio commentary for the film. His discussion is laid-back and rather monotone, but pretty enjoyable, as he provides a nice mixture of chat about creating the characters and trying to make the film with a short shooting schedule and a fairly minimal budget. Next is the cheesily titled "Scene Sexplorations", which has Toback and Campbell analyzing her nude/sex scenes. There's also the film's trailer and promos for other MGM titles, including "Code 46" and "Wicker Park".
Final Thoughts: It's no "Bound" - a film it's somewhat similar to - but Toback's "When Will I Be Loved" is a moody little drama that offers good performances. MGM's DVD edition offers average image quality, but fine audio and supplements. Certainly recommended as a rental.