The Moment


Dir: Jane Weinstock
Star: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Martin Henderson, Alia Shawkat, Marianne Jean-Baptiste

It has probably been close to a decade since I've seen Leigh in a movie, and she's still got it, delivering a raw and intense performance here, as a woman struggling to cling on to her sanity, and unsure even of whether she can trust anything her own senses deliver. The story, however... Not so much, lacking the necessary rigour to pull off this kind of "psycho thriller" [and here, the "psycho" probably stands for "psychotic" rather than "psychological"]. Leigh plays Lee, a war photographer who goes round to the house of her ex-boyfriend, John (Henderson) to get her cameras, only to find him apparently suddenly vanished, having left food in the oven. At the opening of an exhibition of her work, Lee suffers a mental breakdown, and goes into a psychiatric hospital. There, she begins to suspect she might actually have killed John, whom she met while rehabbing after being caught in a suicide-bomb attack. Has she suppressed the act, or is this a stress-induced false memory? With the help of Peter, another patient who bears a striking resemblance to the missing man, Lee tries to find out the truth about what happened.

I'm always suspicious with films that use amnesia, because it's an easy crutch to have a character conveniently remember things, as necessary for the plot. While it can be pulled off - Memento is perhaps the best and most disciplined - too often, this is a lazy substitute, in lieu of better writing. It certainly seems the case here, where it's necessary to jazz up a storyline which, at its heart, isn't actually all that interesting [though the mother/daughter thing Lee has with her offspring would make a great episode of Jerry Springer. Let's just say, they appear to have similar tastes in men]. It feels as if Weinstock is going for David Lynch directing an Agatha Christie novel here; it seems that just about everyone bar her psychiatrist could have been responsible. Leigh is every bit as worth watching as she was during her heyday, when she was the Queen of Damaged Goods e.g. Last Exit to Brooklyn. However, the script is less the Hitchcock it aspires to, and much more Hitchcockandbull.

C
[February 2015]


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