Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Movie Review: Time Out of Mind

Time Out of Mind
Directed by: Oren Moverman.
Written by: Oren Moverman and Jeffrey Caine.
Starring: Richard Gere (George), Jena Malone (Maggie) , Ben Vereen (Dixon), Geraldine Hughes (Maire), Jeremy Strong (Jack), Steve Buscemi (Superintendent).

Richard Gere is one of those charming movie stars who has coasted on that charm a little too often in his career. He is undeniably good looking, and a perfect romantic comedy leading man, but he has gone to that well a little too often during his career. Generally, I think he`s more effective when he plays off of that charm – as he does nicely in movies like Unfaithful (2002), Brooklyn`s Finest (2009) and Arbitrage (2012). His new film, Time Out of Mind, is therefore somewhat of a surprise – the first time he has not either coasted on his charm, nor used his charm to create a more nuanced character. His George Hammond is a homeless man in New York City, haunted by his past, and some sort of mental illness. While sometimes when a movie star does something like this, it comes across only as a stunt – a way to get an Oscar by getting ugly. But Time Out of Mind is something different, some more nuanced, quiet and rather daring. It may just be the best work of Gere`s career.

Co-written and directed by Oren Moverman, who has previously directed The Messenger (2009) and Rampart (2011), Time Out of Mind is a portrait of a homeless man that is often shot at distance. There isn’t much plot in the film – what little there is involves trying to reconnect with the daughter he abandoned (Jena Malone) and trying to navigate through both the shelter system and endless government bureaucracy without any form of ID. But mainly it observes George as he moves through his days – at first alone, as he is found sleeping in a bath tub in a low rent apartment of a supposed friend who has been evicted, and is unceremoniously tossed out. He tries to find other places to keep warm, but it`s getting colder outside, and no one will let him just be inside at night. So he goes to a shelter, and gets a bed. It`s here that he meets Dixon (Ben Vereen) – and the two form an unlikely friendship, mainly it seems because George doesn’t like to talk very much, and Dixon never wants to shut up. Dixon knows everything about everything – at least according to him – and goes with George everywhere he goes.

Time Out of Mind is shot in an interesting way. Moverman often shoots George from far away – half way down the street for instance, with George almost in the background. Often there is someone else in the foreground, and it’s there conversation we are hearing, not whatever George is going. Also, Moverman often shoots George through doors or windows – if George is inside, the camera is outside, and vice versa. The movie isn’t so much about a series of events, but rather it’s about observing George in a way that no one really does. We are well aware that most of the people in the movie don`t even see George – or pretend they don`t anyway – or they treat him as little more than a nuisance.

The result is a movie that sees homelessness in a light that very few movies have. It’s not a non-stop misery tour, but rather about the difficulties of simply getting from day-to-day – and how little help there is out there. Gere is great in this – I have never seen him so fully disappear into a role like this before, and while it acknowledges his good looks, he doesn’t coast on them. It’s a deeper performance than that.

It must be said, however, that because of its approach, Time Out of Mind isn’t a very exciting movie to watch – in fact, it can be a little dull at times, especially near the end where it starts becoming repetitive. It’s also one of those movies that don’t end per se, but rather just stops. It does offer a little hope at the end, but just a little. This is a step forward for both Moverman and Gere – and I look forward to seeing what they do next. It’s not a great film, but it’s an interesting one.

Note: I saw Time Out of Mind at last year’s TIFF, and as far as I know no further edits have been made to the film. Oddly, it’s available on iTunes in Canada for rent and purchase, which is why I am posting the review now, even though I believe it’s not out in theaters or On Demand in America until September – but perhaps I’m wrong).

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