Acclaimed writer-director Oren Moverman has used the goodwill he amassed with such films as "The Messenger" and "Rampart" to assemble an all-star cast for the homelessness drama "Time Out of Mind." Richard Gere stars as George Hammond, a man down and out on the streets of New York, with Jena Malone as his daughter, and cameos from actors such as Steve Buscemi, Michael K. Williams and Ben Vereen. However, the resulting film is high on style, low on story, and comes off as a pretentious, artsy cinematic experiment.
When we first encounter George, he's being kicked out of a run-down squat by a contractor (Buscemi), though he claims a mysterious "Sheila" let him stay there. Alone, without a woman or a place to crash, George is relegated to the streets, where he wanders and ponders, seeking shelter from the cold in emergency rooms, and finally, homeless shelters.
Moverman's game quickly becomes apparent: He shoots George in frames that are obscured by objects or through glass windows, fish tanks, doors emphasizing the outside/inside dichotomy and the imposing world that surrounds George. He layers diegetic sound upon sound throughout, with street noises and off-screen conversations that invade George's space, distracting but also edifying the audience.
There's no score of any kind this is a symphony made up entirely of the city. Frustratingly, Moverman often chooses to frame out people with whom George is talking, letting them hover at the edge of the frame. Coupled with lengthy zooms in on George within the landscape, it's a clear choice to focus on his particular subjective experience. But the problem is that he's just not that interesting or sympathetic. In fairness, the cinematography and cinematic style is beautifully and expertly crafted, picking up all the colors, lights, sights and sounds of the world around George. It's just that this world is not one in which you want to spend two hours.
Perhaps that's the point: It's an arduous task for us to follow George's journey through homelessness in this film can you imagine living it? At least we get to go back to our cozy homes when it's over. But that makes the film something that has to be endured, not enjoyed. Furthermore, George is a jerk to himself and the people around him. "Time Out of Mind" suggests that we should feel for him simply because of his situation; the film doesn't try at all to illicit sympathy for him. The only times we feel sorry for him are in the scenes with his daughter Maggie (Malone), who has clearly been burned before and wants nothing to do with him. Unfortunately, those scenes make up about 10 percent of the film.
This meticulously crafted cinematic curio is too enamored of its own stylistic tics to be a truly successful film. For all the thought put into the filmmaking, it is not in service of a compelling story. George's plight on the streets certainly is "Time Out of Mind." It's time that will drive you out of your mind.
'TIME OUT OF MIND'
1.5 stars out of 4
No MPAA Rating
Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute
Cast: Richard Gere, Jena Malone, Ben Vereen, Steve Buscemi
Directed by Oren Moverman
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Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.