"The Moment" is a psychological thriller more muddled than the mind and the maze it is caught up in.
Director Jane Weinstock, who co-wrote the screenplay with Gloria Norris, is deconstructing a series of traumas that have left one woman catatonic and confused, then tracing her long journey back to reality.
The opening is promising. It captures Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lee, an international photojournalist, working a Somalia war zone. Her camera shoots faces weary of conflict in this dry dusty land, all of it captured with that sort of poetic National Geographic look by cinematographer James Laxton.
But that's just a memory.
Lee is actually back in the States and involved with a moody writer named John (Martin Henderson), who's gone missing. There are flashes of sweaty sex; flirting and fighting in a rustic cabin; medicine vials in the fridge next to the butter; two wine glasses, one red, one blue; maggots on a meal; Meat Loaf, make that Sgt. Goodman, investigating.
But that's just memory too.
At the art gallery opening for Lee's war zone photos, her daughter Jessie (Alia Shawkat) shows up long enough to roll her eyes and take a few digs at mom. A few minutes later Lee is walking through the room naked and dazed.
Soon Lee's in a residential treatment center having therapy sessions with Dr. Bloom (Marianne Jean-Baptiste) and trying to figure things out. Like did she kill John? Did Jessie kill John? Is John even dead? Did she cause the bombing in Somalia that seriously injured her before she even met John? Is it strange that her new friend at the treatment center, Peter, looks exactly like John, same face, not as scruffy?
These and so many other questions will be answered in excruciating detail doled out in incredibly small slices by a very good cast that is very badly used.
Leigh can play enigmatic marvelously. For that check out the miles-better insane mind game of 2004's "The Machinist," with Leigh opposite a skeletal and tortured Christian Bale. In "The Moment," Leigh is never in any moment long enough to find traction. Shawkat, whose work is nearly always worth watching, is unmoored too, her character an inconsistent mess.
Meanwhile, Henderson's John is there to keep stirring the pot, and the actor does so in believable brooding hunk fashion.
Every character has at least one or two back stories in this film, all of which Lee can, and will, interpret, reinterpret and misinterpret.
Weinstock's first feature, the 2004 romance "Easy," was aptly named. "Not Easy or Interesting" might have been a better working title for "The Moment." By the time the truth is finally revealed, I seriously doubt anyone will care.
MPAA rating: None.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Playing: At Sundance Sunset Cinemas, West Hollywood