When Will I Be Loved is either a really stupid movie or far too clever for its own good. Neve Campbell plays Vera Barrie, a poor little rich girl who, at first glance, appears to be fending off the efforts of everyone around her to use and control her. Her stereotypical wealthy parents make clear how she should arrange every aspect of her life, from what kind of mattress she sleeps on to who she sleeps with. Her boyfriend is a sleazy con artist who hopes to talk her into having sex with a billionaire Italian count for $100,000, wanting in effect, to pimp her. The Count, of course, wants to buy her affection and her body. As it turns out, none of these characters controls this girl. On the contrary, the amoral Vera manipulates almost everyone she comes into contact with for her own amusement and gain. While interviewing for an assistant's job with a college professor, she maneuvers the academic's clumsy efforts to flirt with her into a virtual admission of potential sexual harassment, all but forcing him to offer her the position. This interview takes place as the two are walking along the sidewalks of New York, and when the professor is twice distracted by passers by (one of whom is disgraced boxer Mike Tyson himself in perhaps the high point of the movie) Vera uses each break in their conversation to try to pick up attractive men who happen to be near. She engages in a lesbian tryst behind her boyfriend's back, and she apparently deliberately starts an argument between a couple on a park bench by openly flirting with the boy. In the central plot conflict, the affair with the count, she is the spider weaving every strand of the web. Her boyfriend Ford makes a pathetic attempt to conceal his motives as he introduces the subject, but she seems to expect this kind of low scheme from him and anticipates his every move. Not surprisingly, she quickly accepts and tells him to set it up. The lovestruck Count has only seen Vera briefly twice and compares his ardor for her to the poet Dante's passion for Beatrice. Vera quickly manipulates the Count into upping the ante to one million dollars cash. She gives the Count his afternoon of passion and stashes the money in a safety deposit box immediately thereafter. When Ford returns to claim his share of the loot, she lies, telling him that the Count is a fraud who refused to pay her the $100,000. This leads to a confrontation between Ford and the Italian with deeply tragic consequences for both. Although clearly the cause of this misery, Vera show little evidence of guilt and more than a little self-satisfaction.
While this plot may sound interesting, the movie robs it of the energy and intrigue it promises. First of all, Vera is a strangely passive character. She doesn't seem to actively manipulate anyone, she simply reacts to what they do in a way that elicits the behavior she wants. As a result, she is neither interesting nor sympathetic, and, worst of all, her passivity conceals just how despicable she is. When the revelation comes, it is too late and too muted to redeem the story. At best, we go from not liking Vera very much to hating her. We never understand what motivates or satisfies her (beyond her obviously active sex life).
Second, much of what happens is simply not very believable. Basically everyone in the story but Vera is a one-note stereotype. The Count is the most problematic. With no back story but the fact that he is a billionaire "communications" magnate, we are asked to believe that he would bring six grocery bags full of cash to an apartment to make a woman he'd never met happy in the hope that she might sleep with him -- if she wants to. Perhaps this could happen, but the movie doesn't earn our belief. Our incredulity is sharpened by the fact that Neve Campbell is arguably the least attractive woman in the movie. Neve's highly publicized nude shower scene does little to establish the sexual magnetism Vera is apparently supposed to have. Both naked and clothed, she's somewhat shapeless, which only mirrors the impassive smugness she wears on her pleasant but unremarkable face for most of the movie. Vera doesn't have to look like Angelina Jolie, but she should at least look interested. Finally, the soundtrack is horrible. Most of the dialog is drowned in an incessant music track. Brahms, Bach, and Beethoven accompany Vera almost every moment she's on screen. Perhaps the unending Classical ditties are meant to suggest Vera's sophistication or artistry, but like her vague character they quickly move from puzzling to annoying.
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