Time Out of Mind
** out of *****
Directed by Oren Moverman
Starring Richard Gere, Jena Malone, Ben Vereen, Kyra Sedgwick, Danielle Brooks and Steve Buscemi
Theatrical Release Date: September 9, 2015
In a film that should have multiple scenes of intense emotional dilemma and existential inquiry, director Oren Moverman‘s massively confused film Time Out of Mind sadly serves up only two such scenes. Wrought with the struggle of establishing a gritty art-house picture doubling as social commentary film, Moverman loses a lot of the intimacy he so desperately yearns to capture as he did respectfully in his last effort, Rampart.
With a topic ripe for existential conflicts and self-meditations Moverman’s latest tends to coast on Richard Gere‘s impressive performance instead of excavating the man’s soul. A little through the middle of the picture Gere’s George, a homeless man idly making his rounds through Manhattan while moving from shelter to shelter with hopes of mending ties with his estranged daughter, confronts another homeless man about their current plight. The other man, Dixon (Ben Vereen), seems to get through life living on his past stories and jokes. After hearing enough of Dixon’s jokes George states the obvious, “We don’t exist!” The pain in Gere’s voice is heartbreaking and it is what we have been waiting for nearly an hour.
George’s existence is plagued with a perpetuating ennui. Day after day he finds himself absorbed in the everyday bustle of Manhattan, constantly encountering the same individuals and situations. Once in a while a song being sung on a corner by a man and his guitar will move him, but other than this he is condemned and doomed to a life endlessly consumed by the trivial and mundane. We watch expecting something dramatic to occur, but we are let down constantly.
A tinge of drama emerges when George sees a young woman, Maggie (Jena Malone), bartending through a window of a bar. We take it that this woman is his estranged daughter. He gives to a stranger a few ragged photographs to give to his daughter of her as a baby. It is this kind of generic father-daughter relationship that we are accustomed to seeing and Time Out of Mind provides no novel insights into their dilemma.
Dismissing any altercations between his characters, Mr. Moverman, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Jeffrey Caine, is preoccupied with the social milieu homeless individuals are subjected to. He either pays particular attention to the lethargic Q&A process a homeless man has to endure in order to ensure himself shelter or the meaningless conversations George happens to encounter with fellow homeless people. The eagerness he displays in these instances is commendable but he is not able to vividly depict the soulless characters looking for hope or the ruthless debaucheries that such individuals usually succumb to.
Madly evoking such hopelessness with exceedingly forceful direction earlier this year was directors Ben and Joshua Safdie in their unsparing portrait of young homeless individuals apparently in great haste to succumb to death in Heaven Knows What. That film, a much more superior one than Time Out of Mind, contemplated each of its characters’ dire situation and absorbed itself with stunning clarity into the social milieu of New York City homelessness. Gere’s George in the latter film has an arduous task in front of him: by hoping to string us along and experience his ennui with hopes of us discovering some form of drama.