Sunday, October 05, 2014

“Time Out Of Mind”– Movie Review



This weekend at The New York Film Festival, I caught the United States Premiere of “Time Out Of Mind”, a drama starring Richard Gere.


When a homeless man tries to reconcile with his estranged daughter, will he be rebuffed or can she forgive him for abandoning her years before?


With his life having been in something of a free-fall for the past number of years, George (Gere) is scuffling to survive in New York City – whether it’s living in an abandoned apartment or sleeping on a park bench, he’ll do whatever he must in order to make it to another day.  Alcohol being at the heart of his downfall, George will literally sell the clothes on his back in order to get a six-pack of beer or a bottle of vodka.  After having his fill of not knowing where he’ll be able to live from day to day, George relents and seeks help from the city to place him in a homeless shelter. 

Once he’s situated, George sets out on a task equally if not more important to him – to reunite with his grown daughter Maggie (Jena Malone).  Tracking her down to the pub where she works as a bartender, he asks a stranger to hand her some old photos from her childhood – but upon seeing them, she immediately knows where they came from and is not interested in seeing her father.  Eventually, George sees her at a neighborhood laundromat and musters the courage to confront her in person.  Angered that he would have the nerve to seek her out, Maggie informs George in no uncertain terms that she is completely uninterested in having a relationship with him since he seemed unconcerned with having a relationship with her when she was a child. 

During his stay at the homeless shelter, George is befriended by a fellow resident named Dixon (Ben Vereen), an incessantly chatty old man who claims to have been a successful jazz pianist in his day.  Dixon has been in the business of being homeless for a long time and has learned how to work the system to his advantage; seeing George is a bit naïve when it comes to how to play the game, Dixon decides to take George under his wing and teach him how he gets what he needs.  Unfortunately, George runs into the brick wall of bureaucracy since the city cannot proceed with assistance until and unless he is able to present them with some documentation regarding his identity.  When he gets a letter from the city’s homeless advocate to facilitate the necessary paperwork, he brings this to Maggie in the hope this will prove to her that he’s at least making an effort to get back on his feet again.  But will this cause Maggie to resume a relationship with George or will she continue to reject him at every opportunity? 


Consider the plight of the homeless:  drifting about aimlessly, they are without direction and stumble about doomed by their own befuddled logic.  This might also serve as an apt description of this film about the homeless.  “Time Out Of Mind” is undone by its meandering screenplay by its director Oren Moverman, which seems to have a hard time getting its story started; at two hours, this movie feels as though it’s far longer in its running time.  Having more of the look and feel of a documentary, this has no perceptible dramatic momentum that would propel the story forward. 

There is a certain flatness to the story structure of “Time Out Of Mind” and the characters seem to lack a clear reason for doing what they’re doing – except for Maggie, who makes it clear why she’s against the idea of re-establishing a familial relationship with her father.  We have very little idea of who George was before he became homeless and when we see him digging his hole ever deeper, it is impossible to have very much sympathy for him; when you have a protagonist that an audience cannot root for, your film is in plenty of trouble. 

Following the screening, the director and cast members were interviewed.  Gere said that his initial involvement came about a decade ago when he was originally sent the script; he vacillated when it came to committing to make the movie – his reluctance was due to the fact that he felt the script as originally written did not work.  When he worked on “I’m Not There”, he liked Moverman’s screenplay so much that he wound up asking him to do a rewrite of his script about the homeless.  Jena Malone mentioned that she did not have to do very much research about being homeless because she herself was homeless early in her career, being forced to live in her car for an extended period of time.  


Time Out of Mind (2014) on IMDb

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