Love in the Time of Money (R) ★★

Review Date: November 1st, 2002

A series of interconnected vignettes following the lives of nine New Yorkers as they pursue love and sex during the financial boom of the mid-1990s.


The film begins with an unsatisfactory rendezvous between a prostitute (Vera Farmiga) and a brutish carpenter named Eddie (Domenick Lombardozzi), who is unable to perform. It then follows Eddie to the Manhattan apartment of Ellen (Jill Hennessy), a wealthy but neglected client who wants to sleep with him because she thinks her husband is cheating on her. Later that night, Ellen tells her husband, Robert (Malcolm Gets), ''I want to sleep with other men.'' He answers, ''So do I.'' The story then switches its focus to Robert and the object of his desire, an artist named Martin (Steve Buscemi). Martin rebukes Robert's advances at first, but ultimately gives in. Then, Martin becomes the pursuer when he makes advances on a beautiful art gallery receptionist, Anna (Rosario Dawson), who eventually sleeps with him. She confesses the infidelity to her boyfriend (Adrian Grenier), who then turns to an older woman, Joey (Carol Kane), for comfort until she frightens him off with her desperation. Alone, Joey finds herself giving comfort in the form of phone sex to a suicidal Wall Street embezzler named Will (Michael Imperioli). Will then ends the night with the prostitute from the opening scene.


A film like this must be a dream scenario for actors--an ensemble piece that allows each player to be the main character for a short amount of screen time. With the possible exception of the unfortunately miscast Steve Buscemi, who seems overly awkward in his love scenes with both sexes, the diverse ensemble of actors assembled here are clearly up to the challenge. The nine principals are meant to represent a mixed bag of races, ages, classes and disciplines ranging from stage to television to independent film, and the anecdotal structure gives each of them a chance to shine. Some shine a little brighter than others, however. Dawson, Grenier, Kane and Imperioli in particular stand out in their respective roles during the latter half of the film. This is not to say that the rest are lacking. It's just that there is only so much that can be done with the material, which is sluggish at times and laden with heavy dialogue that can be difficult to deliver believably. As a whole, the talented cast does the best they can with what they are given.


When writer/director Peter Mattei set out to depict the vapid and money-obsessed world of the 1990's, he looked to Arthur Schnitzler's classic stage play Reigen for stylistic inspiration. The play follows one character after another in a series of overlapping vignettes in which each character seeks out some sort of sexual conquest. Mattei emulates that structure in Love in the Time of Money, but never manages to escape the play's theatrical roots. The film relies heavily on dialogue with little intriguing visual imagery that couldn't be done on stage. Although the digital video format is well suited to the material, Mattei fails to take full advantage of the rich New York background, favoring nondescript streets, anonymous alleyways, and common restaurants that could exist in any city. Another limitation of the multiplot design is the inability to get more than a cursory glance at any one of the nine characters. There is scarcely enough time in each story to introduce them, let alone fully explore what makes them tick, before the film moves on to the next person. All that is presented are the broad strokes of their desires and actions, without any depth or background to give them context. It's a noble experiment, but one that ultimately fails to be compelling.

Bottom Line

Love in the Time of Money feels like a filmed stage play. It's unconventional narrative structure is interesting, but the gimmick only goes so far and doesn't make up for uneven pacing and a lack of emotional depth. Like the time it represents, the film focuses on the surface rather than the content underneath.