Oren Moverman has directed acclaimed films like The Messenger and most recently co-wrote the Beach Boys drama Love and Mercy, which was sadly not given enough attention. And if you’re well aware of his directing and writing style, you’ll know that his latest film, Time Out of Mind, starring Richard Gere as a homeless man, is something very risky and has even been called experimental. There is a lot to appreciate about the film, as it’s not a pretentious solution-based look at homelessness, but rather about the first-person experience of being homeless. But this doesn’t mean that the film is something that everyone will particularly like, either.
George (Richard Gere) wakes up in a bathtub in a place he doesn’t really recognize. He’s asked to vacate the premises and is constantly asking for someone by the name of Sheila, a woman we never actually meet (although Kyra Sedgwick allows herself to be called by that name for a night). Wandering the streets, disoriented, cold, struggling, and having to go through the bureaucratic red tape just to have a bed to sleep in at the Bellevue Hospital, George isn’t portrayed as perfect. He has his own faults and his own regrets, but that doesn’t allow you to feel any less sympathy for him, and understanding as to why his daughter (Jena Malone) doesn’t really want him in her life.
Moverman brilliantly uses camera angles and shots of Gere outside windows, doors and from a distance to give us this portrait of a man we would see everyday, but never quite make eye contact with. He’s noticeable but invisible at the same time, which is to the strength of the filmmaking here. The film doesn’t have a lot of dialogue, as in most of the written lines only go so far and the main dialogue of the film is the cacophony of noise that is New York City. People are out and about, talking, walking, laughing, living life, and here is this man who can stand in a very public place for an hour or two and is never seen.
However, while the cinematography is fantastic and really captures the essence and tone of the film, Time Out of Mind is a difficult watch. Gere really sells himself as a homeless man with a whole list of problems and glimpses of backstory that tells you how he might have gotten to where he is now, but there really isn’t a lot to go on other than his body language, with the hunched posture and disoriented stares. You need more than that and it isn’t anything the film is willing to give.
Another thing that might turn people away is the fact that at a run time of two hours, the film drags on for long periods of time. A scene in the middle of the park goes on for too long, repetitive visits to the shelter begin to feel the same, and it never leads the film anywhere where its efforts are effective. There is a lot of patience involved in seeing this movie and its slow nature could have used some editing, but at the same time Moverman and Gere’s efforts and intentions are not to be discarded with its true-to-nature capture of the homeless experience, no matter how underwhelming the film can be at times. This extremely realistic and intimate portrayal of the homeless is what gives the film more quality than at first appears and turns it into a bit of abstract filmmaking.
Release Date: September 18, 2015 (DC Metro area release) | Director and Screenwriter: Oren Moverman | Cast: Richard Gere, Jena Malone, Ben Vereen, Steve Buscemi, Kyra Sedgwick, Danielle Brooks | Genre: Drama | MPAA Rating: Not Rated