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Somebody to Love

Somebody to Love

Federico Fellini and Giulietta Masina aren't spinning in their graves. (They're much too cool for that.) But it's easy to imagine the Maestro's wry shrug and the cocking of her expressive eyebrows at the dedication of Somebody to Love to them.

Why director Alexandre Rockwell and his co-writer Sergei Bodrov would have chosen to honor the great Italians is harder to figure. This unfocused story of Hollywood has-beens and wannabes is hardly Fellini material. It does have his hopeful spirit and appreciation of the tattered glamour of the movie business, but that's where any similarity ends.

Mercedes (Rosie Perez) is a taxi dancer who spends her days answering casting calls and doing anything else she can think of to break into films. Her married boyfriend, Harry (Harvey Keitel), is no help. His glory days as a regular on High Chaparral are long past and he can't seem to scrape together enough cash for them to go to New York where they'll become serious actors. At the same time, Ernesto (Michael DeLorenzo), an innocent but ambitious immigrant, has fallen hard for Mercedes, and will do anything she asks of him.

The main problem is that the film can't decide which of those three stories it wants to tell. If Rockwell had been able to blend them together more smoothly, he might have created a gritty film noir about the destructive potential of love and Hollywood in the late '90s. But the story really doesn't take on a noir sensibility until the last act, and it's far too intense a finish for the lighter material that's come before.

The main strengths are those strong, well-acted characters. Keitel's stoned variation on Hamlet's soliloquy is worth the rental price by itself. The supporting cast is filled with a veritable who's who of independent film--Stanley Tucci, Steve Buscemi (all but unrecognizable in drag), Steven Randazzo, and Anthony Quinn. Directors Sam Fuller and Quentin Tarantino also show up for strong cameos.

Shortcomings not withstanding, Somebody to Love still deserves a recommendation to anyone who's interested in the serious work that's being done outside the studio system these days.

- Mike Mayo