Time Out of Mind (2014)

Time Out of Mind (2014)
  • Time: 117 min
  • Genre: Drama
  • Director: Oren Moverman
  • Cast: Richard Gere, Jena Malone, Danielle Brooks, Ben Vereen


George seeks refuge at Bellevue Hospital, a Manhattan intake center for homeless men, where his friendship with a fellow client helps him try to repair his relationship with his estranged daughter.


  • They are everywhere and yet nowhere. We pass them on the streets, see them asleep on benches, on sidewalks, the corners of subway platforms. We hear their pleas for us to spare some change or to help them out. Perhaps we hear them, perhaps we do give them a coin or two, or even a dollar bill if we feel so inclined. Perhaps we walk on and forget they were ever there. Because to see them would be to acknowledge them, and to acknowledge them would be to admit that life can spiral out of control, that circumstances can change and, most frighteningly, that it could have been us, that it could still be us.

    Time Out of Mind focuses on one such invisible man, whose name we later learn is George Hammond (Richard Gere). First seen being awakened in a bathtub in an apartment not his own, George spends the majority of the film as an “in between” – he refuses to call himself homeless – constantly being told to leave from one place or another. The hospital, for example, will allow him to take shelter in its waiting lounge…but only if it’s below zero outside. Sleep is elusive – it’s almost farcical how George is consistently denied and thwarted a full night’s rest. The city teems with all manner of noise – cars driving past, people talking, always talking.

    It’s a surprise then when George discovers that New York City must legally provide him a bed. Not only that but he could qualify for a permanent place in one of the city shelters, provided he passes the evaluation. Once assigned a bed, George finds the shelters are a step above prison – arguments are prone to break out between the shelters’ denizens and its staff, tensions simmer between the white and black population, no one can be trusted. Then there is the paperwork to content with and, with George’s wallet stolen, the difficulty of even establishing a documented identity. Life seems determined to erase him from existence.

    Time Out of Mind can make for bleak viewing, and writer-director Oren Moverman’s commendable commitment to taking viewers through every step of George’s journey requires a patience most may not want to summon. If nothing else, the film is worth watching for the visual approach that Moverman and cinematographer Bobby Bukowski employ. George is seen almost always from a distance and usually through windows or screens or doorways. The compositions reinforce George’s isolation and sense of entrapment. The observational visual approach possesses an uncommon textural quality. One lovely scene between George and his estranged daughter (Jena Malone) is shown through a window, upon which is reflected coloured lights and images of passersby. The effect is a detached intimacy – life goes on even if one individual’s life has stalled. And for all the drabness and hopelessness of George’s surroundings and situation, there is a vibrancy about the city that will not be suppressed.

    Then there is Gere, whose immersive portrayal ranks amongst his finest. It is difficult to reconcile this broken down man with the sexual swaggerers of Gere’s younger years. Gere’s beauty, and that overwhelming sexuality, has often distracted from the nimbleness and range of his performances. The beauty hasn’t entirely gone away – even at his scruffiest, Gere is attractive – but it does not detract from the simple, unfussy, and heartfelt portrayal of a man who deserves looking after but is often hard to help.

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  • “Cause…normally, it’s…you know, the parents takes care of the kid. Not really the other way around.”

    After watching “Time out of mind” I felt pity and at the same time a kind of relief coming over me. I pitied George who tries to escape the cold daily by hiding in the waiting room of a hospital or just riding the subway through New York. Pity because he always has to find himself a new coat to withstand the freezing cold because he traded his last one in a pawnshop for a bit of cash again. Pity because usually this money is needed to buy some cheap alcohol. Pity because it’s difficult for homeless people to pick up the thread again or to be in order with the bureaucratic whirligig. And in addition, I felt this relief because I’m not living in such a hopeless situation and I don’t need to struggle for survival all the time. Relieved because I do possess what these homeless people are missing.

    My greatest admiration goes out to Richard Gere who succeeded seemingly effortlessly in changing into a person who’s standing on the precipice of society. Despite George’s unshaven and scruffy appearance, you still can catch a glimpse of Gere’s good looks and seductive gaze at times. Even the social assistant who interviews him notices that. But Gere wasn’t the most obvious choice in my opinion. It’s the most contrarian part he could play, compared to his previous acting. George is the opposite of the characters he played in “American Gigolo” and “Pretty Woman”. As Gere himself in real life, these characters are wealthy and without deficiencies. And still Gere manages to come across as the poor man who can’t find a way out of the vicious circle he finds himself in. In other words, I’m starting to like the actor Gere more and more. Maybe it has to do with his age. Just like in “The Benefactor” it’s not an obvious role or something to get credits for in an easy way. The only weak point in “The Benefactor” was the story on its own. Gere’s acting on the other hand was sublime and admirable.

    The story may seem rather long-winded, with a lot of boring intervals. However, it felt like the image sought to include George’s everyday life. A useless existence with many moments where he’s observing things expressionless, dozing off once and a while and patiently waiting until he can return to the safe city center for the homeless. Not that George stays there with conviction and pleasure. In his eyes, this is probably the low point in his sad life and he tried to avoid it as long as possible. The New York city life serves as a soundtrack. Bits of music you can hear from a random bar, followed by a random conversation held by a stranger on the phone or the loud music from a passing car. And this interspersed with images taken from afar out of different angles where we see George as a key figure in the center of this cacophony. A symbolic image that shows how insignificant he is as a person in this metropolis.

    You can hardly call this movie a real crowd puller. And many who saw it, will probably claim that it’s slow and monotonous. And although that was also my first impression, the film gradually fascinated me more and more. It’s been a long time since I enjoyed an interaction between two totally different people like the one here with George and Dixon (Ben Vereen), an ancien among the homeless whose blabbering starts to annoy George from the beginning. Everyone will recognize Ben Vereen from a TV movie, but he was really unrecognizable in this movie. Although the attempt to pick up the thread again when it concerns his daughter Maggie (Jena Malone), this part of the story seems to become less important in relation to the larger whole. The way the movie ends seems simplistic and minimalistic. And yet the end fits perfectly with the rest of the film. “Time out of mind” at least impressed me.

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  • Tragic. Ironic. Sad. Confusing. Inexcusable. Pick your adjective. Such words are often used to describe the fact that the United States of America, the richest country in the world, has a significant problem with homelessness. According to a January 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, there were over 635,000 homeless people in the United States at any one time. The number of those who were temporarily homeless was much higher. Homelessness has actually declined a bit in the last few years, but that fact means nothing to the individual people who are counted in those statistics. The man who can’t support his family. The woman fleeing an abusive spouse. The kids who see and reflect their parents’ sadness, frustration and fear, but lack the emotional maturity or life experience to understand much of what’s happening to their family. These are just some examples of the kinds of people who are among America’s homeless. Regardless of the causes of these situations, they are all sad stories. The unusual drama “Time Out of Mind” (NR, 1:57) sheds light on these problems through the experiences of one homeless man. It’s too bad that his story, and the film around him, aren’t more effectively staged.

    Before you notice the problems with this film, or even have the chance to evaluate the story for yourself, you have to get past the movie’s title. What does “Time Out of Mind” even mean? Is it that the central character is out of his mind for a time, or is it something else? The movie’s advertising doesn’t answer that question, nor does the film itself. That exact title was used for a well-received 1997 Bob Dylan album and a relatively expensive, but poorly received 1947 film, along with other musical, film and television products. The Wiktionary website offers definitions for the phrase (“the distant past beyond anyone’s memory”, or “a lengthy duration of time, longer than is readily remembered”), but neither those definitions, nor the various entertainment products that used the phrase as a title seem to have any real connection to the story in the 2014 film (which started off on the film festival circuit late that year and received a limited U.S. theatrical release in September 2015, expanding slightly during the fall).

    Richard Gere stars as George, a middle-aged man who is homeless throughout the film. We see him struggling to find a place to sleep… in the bathtub of the vacated apartment of a friend (until a building manager played by Steve Buscemi chases him away), on an outdoor bench, in a hospital waiting room, on the subway and, eventually, in a semi-permanent homeless shelter. Along the way, George has conversations with other homeless people played by, among others, Ben Vereen and an almost unrecognizable Kyra Sedgwick, he seeks help from random strangers and people paid to help people like him, and he spies on and occasionally tries to talk to his estranged daughter, Maggie (Jena Malone).

    This cast is good, but Gere is the weak link. The other actors give brief, but lived-in performances (especially Sedgwick). Gere’s acting is heartfelt and has some range to it, but feels like little more than the typically suave Gere with a bad haircut and worn-out shoes. Gere is a fine actor, but I can think of others who would’ve been better casting choices. I also wish that we got more of George’s backstory and could actually tell if his mental issues are genuine. The script is one of this film’s biggest problems.

    There’s very little conflict here to drive this story. People drift in and out of George’s life and he drifts in and out of theirs with nothing of any real importance coming from these interactions. The three main questions that a viewer is waiting to have answered are whether George will find a permanent and decent place to stay, whether he’ll get the documents he needs to receive services and whether he’ll reconnect with his daughter in any meaningful way. There’s relatively little actual dialog. Some of it feels improvised and much of the film has no dialog at all (but not like in “Cast Away” or “All is Lost” which were more interesting because it felt like its plots were going somewhere). The cinematography involves showing us many of the film’s scenes through windows, sometimes even from across the street, and the actors’ faces are often blocked by objects in the foreground. It all makes the viewer feel like a voyeur.

    The things that I just criticized about the film could be understood as artistic choices – if you are in a charitable mood. The (probably) improvised dialog and lack of activity or meaningful accomplishments in most of George’s days could be seen as ways to make the film more realistic. Then, maybe, the large number of scenes shot through windows are meant to symbolize people catching glimpses of George’s life, but not really understanding, caring or doing anything to help. These things aren’t clear and they could have been, with some very minor changes to the film’s visuals and its choppy editing. I’ll give the screenwriter and director the benefit of the doubt on some of this stuff, but that only goes so far in evaluating a film as a piece of entertainment, which is the main reason that most people go to movies.

    I’m not recommending “Time Out of Mind” (by giving it something in the “A” or “B” range), but I don’t think it deserves trashing either (any kind of “D” or “F”). I’m giving this movie a grade that reflects my evaluation of it as a well-intentioned but mediocre and mostly boring film which ends up being a few tweaks away from a recommendation – and more effectiveness as entertainment – and as an agent for greater awareness and maybe even change on a very important issue in the U.S. and elsewhere. “C+”

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