The Moment: Tribeca Review

Although Jennifer Jason Leigh delivers a compelling turn, this Hitchcock-style drama ties itself in too many knots.

Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as an emotionally scarred war photographer in Jane Weinstock's psychological thriller.

Jennifer Jason Leigh proves compelling in a too-rare leading role in The Moment, Jane Weinstock’s Hitchcockian psychological thriller receiving its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival. But despite the actress’ intense turn as a war photographer facing an emotional crisis after the disappearance of her lover, this stylized and twisty exercise will prove frustrating for viewers unable or unwilling to keep up with its convoluted narrative.

The screenplay co-written by the director and Gloria Norris shifts back and forth in time in depicting the travails of Lee, who was nearly killed by a suicide bomber while on assignment in Somalia. While recuperating in a stateside hospital she meets John (Martin Henderson), a fellow patient recovering from a car crash injury, and soon begins a relationship with him. A quiet loner who works a solitary job as a storage room center manager, he has a troubled past that includes spending five years in prison for a murder that he didn’t commit.

The relationship ends badly when Lee finds out that John has also been seeing her daughter Jessie (Alia Shawkat). But when she later attempts to recover her camera from John’s home, she discovers that he’s gone missing under mysterious circumstances. Increasingly haunted by the idea that she might be responsible for his death, she suffers a breakdown and winds up in a mental hospital, where she strikes up a friendship with a fellow patient who bears an uncanny resemblance to her missing lover.

At least that’s what seems to happen, as the film mirrors its central character’s confused state with deliberate obfuscation and shifting perceptions that have the effect not so much of keeping the audience on its toes as shrugging its shoulders. Much care and effort has been given to the presentation, with the past and present sequences featuring different styles of camera work and color. But it’s hard to get past the silliness of the convoluted proceedings, with the central character’s hallucinatory state especially depicted in the silliest of terms.

Leigh anchors the proceedings with her compelling performance, and Henderson does what he can with his sketchily written dual roles. Providing sturdy support are Shawkat as the volatile daughter, Marianne Jean-Baptiste as a sympathetic shrink and Meat Loaf as a suspicious cop. But The Moment, which strains for a Spellbound-style level of psychological immersion, mostly succeeds in being ludicrous.

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival
Production: Next Weekend, Knit One
Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Martin Henderson, Alia Shawkat, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Meat Loaf, Alessandra Torresani, Navid Negahban
Director: Jane Weinstock
Screenwriters: Gloria Norris, Jane Weinstock
Producers: Mary Jane Skalski, Julia Eisenman, Gloria Norris, Allan Jones, Jane Weinstock, James Welling
Executive producer: Michael F. Mitri
Director of photography: James Laxton
Editors: Stan Salfas, Ruben Sebban
Production designer: Todd Fjelsted
Costume designer: Justine Seymour
Composer: Nathan Larson
Not rated, 90 mins.