"The Moment" stars Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lee, a mentally unstable photojournalist. Lee has just returned from an assignment in Somalia where she narrowly escaped death after an explosion set off by a suicide bomber. Shaken, Lee returns home to find her lover John (Martin Henderson) missing. Her daughter Jessie (Alia Shawkat) is furious with Lee for being an absent parent and her ex-husband (Navid Negahban) cares for Lee but is also exasperated.
Lee phones John numerous times leaving more and more urgent messages about how she needs to come by John’s house to pick up cameras she left there. Finally she is angry enough to march over there and demand to know what’s going on. Once there she discovers an empty home with a plate of partially eaten food swarming with insects. There’s burned bread in the oven and Lee sees that John’s cars keys are still on their hook and John’s vehicle is parked in the driveway. Clearly something is very wrong.
Lee goes to the police station and reports John missing to Sergeant Goodman (Meat Loaf). He seems impatient and condescendingly conveys the message that maybe her ex-boyfriend is just not that into her. Lee begins to spin out. She has a nervous breakdown and walks out of the bathroom butt naked in front of a crowd at an art gallery’s photo exhibit. Her husband gets her into a mental hospital under the care of psychiatrist Dr. Bloom (Marianne Jean-Baptiste). There she meets Peter (also played by Martin Henderson) who has an uncanny resemblance to John.
The premise is intriguing and the cast is strong but what is frustrating is the confusion. In an attempt to mimic Lee’s distorted and confused perceptions the audience is left guessing what is going on. At times that’s fun but mostly it’s hard to follow and there are a lot of repetitive flashbacks.
“The Moment” still manages to build suspense but the ending is not clear and it’s a letdown after you’ve hung in there and stuck with it. Still, because of the great cast it would make for a decent rental on date night.
Examiner Dorri Olds met with cowriter and director Jane Weinstock on June 3 for an exclusive interview.
Dorri Olds: How did you decide to jump back and forth in time versus telling the story chronologically?
Jane Weinstock: It was originally more chronological but Jennifer didn’t like it that way and I didn’t like it that way either, so I went back in and completely changed the structure of the story so that it would begin with the bombing when Lee is on assignment in war torn Somalia.
Did you enjoy working with Jennifer Jason Leigh?
Yes, she was very collaborative. She’s a writer and director herself so she had a lot to say about the script. When we were rehearsing, which we did for five days, she often suggested lines and I often incorporated her suggestions and when we were editing the film she gave us feedback. She was very helpful.
What can you say about the other cast members?
Alia Shawkat can be delightful. Sometimes she can be like a kid. I liked working with her and she’s a wonderful actress. I wanted her character to have a sense of danger while still being vulnerable. She needed to seem like someone who was capable of murder. I auditioned all of these very nice actresses, good actresses, but I would ask myself, “Could they kill someone?” Almost always the answer was no. Then Alia came along and I was like, “Oh yeah, she could do it.”
Meat Loaf was nice and very accommodating but he broke his foot in the middle of filming so he was on crutches when we filmed him at the police station. Luckily, we’d written the scene where he’d be seated at a desk so it wasn’t a problem.
Marianne Jean-Baptiste is fantastic. I adore her. She’s an amazing actress and a joy to work with.
Martin Henderson is from New Zealand and he was in “The Ring” with Naomi Watts. He’s done TV and other films. He’s a terrific actor. And he’s gorgeous. [Smiles]
"The Moment" opens in limited release in Los Angeles on June 20, 2014. For New Yorkers and everyone else it becomes available on VOD July 8 and DVD Aug. 12. Not rated. 92 min.