Time Out of Mind *

by Andres Solar

Great talent yields terrible results in this poorly told drama. 

Is it worth $10? No 

The Richard Gere vehicle “Time Out of Mind” dramatizes the plight of a man who has recently become homeless in modern-day New York City. At least it tries to, anyway. A hazy opening sequence features the peal of church bells and a daunting Manhattan skyline in various shades of haystack, battleship, and wolf wool. Though he delivers a pleasantly moody beginning, writer/director Owen Moverman (“Rampart” [2011]) has created a movie that boasts a serious timbre, but curiously lacks drama.

It’s puzzling that the veteran screenwriter chooses such a glib approach. In real life and in movies, we have seen this all before. That fact presents dual problems. We already UNDERSTAND that living homeless is difficult and painful, so what's the point of demonstrating it over and over again? We already KNOW plenty of the old tropes about the homeless, and the director seems content to simply march them all out in front of the camera. The underpinning of the film’s abject failure is the vapidness brought on by these two related issues.

Because of its literal and figurative perspectives, Moverman’s third feature at the helm makes you feel like the ever-ignored, silent sidekick of a confused homeless man wandering around New York City. (Later in the movie, a fellow shelter-dweller named Dixon [Ben Vereen] takes on the ignored sidekick role.) More often than not, though, we see Gere’s George in interior-to-exterior shots (through windows large and small). Putting the audience in such a position—behind glass, in effect—diminishes the potential for emotional connection with the film’s only main character. Thus, “Time Out Of Mind” is strangely devoid of insights and offers little more than a creepy, voyeuristic experience.

For plot, it’s as if the writer/director came to his conclusions about living on the street after interviewing kindergartners:

“Well, when you’re sleeping at a bus stop, somebody might take your shoes.”

“Yeah, and then they wouldn’t even wear them. They’d probably throw them at your head when you’re trying to sleep.”

“Oh, and I bet they have to eat on really dirty tables. Like with mice crawling all over and stuff.”

While this might seem like a cute idea for a three-minute, animated short, it is anything but that in a self-serious, ostensibly observational two-hour feature. George’s intermittent visits to his estranged daughter (played by Jena Malone [2014’s “Inherent Vice]) provide some much-needed character interaction, but they are too infrequent to really lift the movie’s (or the father’s) spirits.

It’s remarkable that the problem with this infuriatingly poor piece of filmmaking is not lack of talent. In fact, some of the filmmakers here played key roles in one of this year’s best, the Brian Wilson biopic “Love & Mercy.” (Moverman co-wrote the screenplay and Bill Pohlad, who produced and directed, is a producer here.)

Gere is a great talent, but he seems so focused on making his character “natural” that he forgets to act. His speech patterns and mannerisms seem to derive from concept rather than feeling, and the result is merely an affected Raymond Babbitt-meets-Forrest Gump twitchiness.

“Time Out Of Mind” is the cinematic equivalent of a bad U2 song--preachy, dull, and meandering. The combination of emotional bankruptcy, pedestrian plot, and overly dreary, distant style ultimately lands this film in the city dump.

Andres Solar reviews new fare with an emphasis on art house and indie for Punch Drunk Movies. He would love to see Burt Reynolds in another Paul Thomas Anderson movie but understands that it probably “Ain’t gonna happen.”

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