Enthusiasts for provincial French vistas will be pleased, but fans of Max von Sydow and Charlotte Rampling’s meatier roles will feel cheated by “Time Is Money ,” a belabored, quasi-comic examination of the household machinations of a revered (but broke) writer who no longer wants to write. Tube sales beckon.
Aging novelist and Oscar-winning screenwriter Joseph Kaufman (von Sydow) lives with his wife, Irina (Rampling), on an estate in the French countryside. Though he’s spent the last advance on an unwritten novel and the tax authorities are poised to seize his property, Joe is more interested in creating new strains of hypochondria than fulfilling editorial obligations.
Irina, a former concert pianist, can’t get Joe to face the typewriter. Nor can longtime friend and agent Mac (Martin Landau), who flies in from New York. Mac hires budding young writer David Hirsh (Francois Montagut) as a live-in secretary to prod Joe into completion. But it’s uphill all the way as the admiring David combats Joe’s raging cynicism concerning life and art.
Helmer/co-writer Paolo Barzman, son of the late Yank screenwriter Ben Barzman , establishes the basic premise, then keeps paraphrasing and restating it without moving the story forward. Though the underlying themes are interesting, dialogue is frequently didactic.
Though von Sydow would not be everyone’s first choice for a crotchety literary lion named Kaufman, the Swedish thesp is on the money as the aged scribe who wants only to drowse, mope and issue pronouncements. The radiant Rampling, as his casually stunning, much younger wife, shows subtlety and is a pleasure to watch. To the actors’ credit, the pair come across as a longtime couple with their respective memories and grievances.
The usually fine Landau overplays the harried, foul-mouthed New Yorker role he’s been dealt. Montagut is likable, if innocuous, as David.
Widescreen summertime lensing shows ample consideration for earthy provincial hues, and the leads look wonderful.