Miramax // 2002 // 88 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Erin Boland (Retired) // March 10th, 2004
love. lust. lies.
In the style of sex, lies, and videotape, director Peter Mattei presents us with his debut piece, Love in the Time of Money, a character drama that explores the meaning of love in the modern world.
Love in the Time of Money follows nine people who interact with each other in a circular series of nine encounters involving only two of the main characters. They are an interesting slice in a bleak portrait of life in the Big Apple. You will find nine very different New Yorkers, in nine very different encounters, all of which deal one way or another with love or sex.
* Domenick Lombardozzi (Young Girl and the Monsoon) plays Eddie
Iovine, a contractor with sexual intimacy problems
* Jill Hennessy (Law & Order) is Ellen Walker, a mentally unstable housewife
* Malcom Gets (13 Conversations About One Thing) is Robert Walker, Ellen's sexually repressed husband and an art collector
* Steve Buscemi (Fargo) portrays Martin Kunkle, an uninspired artist
* Rosario Dawson (Men in Black II) brings the audience Anna, a beautiful art gallery receptionist
* Adrian Grenier (Hart's War) plays Nick, Anna's boyfriend
* Carol Kane brings us Joey, a lonely and kind of crazy telephone psychic
* Michael Imperioli (The Basketball Diaries) plays Will, an embezzler and suicidal businessman
* Vera Farmiga is Greta, a young naïve prostitute
In spite of their differences, all of these characters have one thing in common: they are lonely and looking for love (or what they think is love). Peter drives the nail into the coffin by not allowing any of these characters to experience a happy ending, thus sealing the realism of his fairy tale.
This is one of those films that will separate the casual moviegoers from the true film connoisseurs. It is extremely erotic yet there is very little flesh shown. It presents sex, without being pornographic. It presents real people living real lives, and love equated to sex in a time of desperation for each character. Throughout this sequence of short stories, we are persuaded to feel sympathy towards one of the characters until, in the next story, we see find them in a much less appealing than before. Each character is first presented as the victim of their lives, wallowing in a pit of desperation, and then given the authority to introduce someone else, in some cases a perfect stranger, to their state of desperation. Each uses sex as a survival method but becomes degraded in the transition from needed to needy.
Thematically, the encounters seem to center on each character doing something he/she would not normally have done or behaving in a manner that is new and desperate for their personality, as if each had reached some sort of breaking point in their lives. (More obvious with some rather then others.) We have some idea of what has caused many of them to reach their breaking point, but much of the details are based on their conversations and behavior. In addition, the film also explores the erotic attraction that the different characters have towards one other. Love in the Time of Money captures a sense of erotic love instead of the more poignant emotional or spiritual love that most of us believe we are looking for. This equates love with sex. Love is sex and sex is love. Whether the characters in the film are looking for a quick shag, sex with other partners or use the word "love" with respect to their interactions, in the end they are searching for the same thing: attention and acceptance. Whether it comes in the form of sex or love, it's all the same in the end.
In this style, not one single actor truly carried the film, as they each appeared on screen for no more then twenty minutes. On the whole, the acting was superb; each actor was able to give a great deal of attention to his or her character's quirks and personal dementias.
Love in the Time of Money looks absolutely excellent for an independent film. The picture quality is amazing and extremely well composed, although it does have an overall tendency to appear very dark. The setting for most of the encounters seems very intimate, whether it's an abandoned part of town where a prostitute can quietly shag her client, or a private bedroom where an artist can draw his model. The privacy of these settings focuses the film more on the characters and their interactions and heightens the building eroticism of the movie. This combined with the overall dark atmosphere creates a very visual statement about love in modern cities. The audio track was excellent: conversations were clear, though, there wasn't a significant soundtrack. Although the film is presented in surround sound, it's a character drama so it won't test push your sound system to the limits. The extras this DVD presents are a trifling of extras: four studio trailers. The DVD would have benefited immensely from the inclusion of a commentary track of some type (and oh what an interesting commentary track it had the potential to be).
This is not the type of film that everyone will like. In fact, this may not be the type of film that most people will like. It's one of those art films with no middle of the road: you will either love it or absolutely hate it. I could point you in the right direction with several: sex, lies, and videotape, Eyes Wide Shut, The Opposite of Sex, A Clockwork Orange, Sex and Lucia to name a few. If you have enjoyed any of these movies, Love in the Time of Money is at least worth renting. If you didn't like these films or they don't appeal to you, don't waste your time with this one, move along to the next review.
Steven Soderbergh debuted his filmmaking career with sex, lies, and videotape. He was eventually able to make studio films and brought us Erin Brockovich and Traffic. Peter Mattei seems to be off to a similar start. Give him a chance; you probably won't regret it. Love in the Time of Money is, to say the least, an entertaining experience.
Peter Mattei and cast are pronounced not guilty, but they are requested to provide a commentary next time.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 88 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated R