In his take on Arthur Schnitzler's well-trodden play "Reigen," writer-director Peter Mattei traces a connection through a miscellany of New Yorkers, beginning with a prostitute (Vera Farmiga) who services a contractor (Domenick Lombardozzi) on a waterfront as barren as the characters' interior landscapes.
From there, the contractor moves on to the restless wife (Jill Hennessy) of a sexually ambiguous man (Malcolm Gets), who finds comfort in the embrace of a painter (Steve Buscemi), who, in turn, longs for an imperious gallery worker (Rosario Dawson). And so it goes as one character leads to another in an overly familiar cavalcade of alienation, despair and dreary grappling.
Roger Vadim, among others, as well as David Hare's play "The Blue Room" -- "Love in the Time of Money" is an enervating bit of business. Best known in its French translation, "La Ronde," Schnitzler's play involves men and women whose erotic encounters reflect their circumscribed milieu. Although the title suggests that Mattei has something to say about sex in the modern world some 100 years later (much in the way the 1992 feature "Chain of Desire" used the play to consider love in the time of AIDS), the evidence indicates he has nothing new to add.
Sluggishly paced and shot in the sort of grubby digital video that renders even the dewiest skin tone liverwurst gray, the film comes across as little more than a series of acting workshop exercises wrapped in a tissue of cliché. The actors who fare best, notably Adrian Grenier as a lover cut adrift, along with the eccentrically paired Dawson and Buscemi, are pleasant enough company yet even they can't alleviate the tedium of a work that lacks both a purpose and a strong pulse.
'Love in the Time of Money': Rated R, for a disturbing violent image, strong sexual content and language. In general release. Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes.