‘Time Out of Mind'
Director: Oren Moverman
Stars: Richard Gere, Ben Vereen
4 (out of 5) Globes
He’s first spotted in a bath tub in a deep Brooklyn squatter, as though he was playing a citywide game of hide and seek. George (Richard Gere) doesn’t want to be found, as being found means being ousted from the closest thing he has to a home. When a surly building manager (Steve Buscemi) — the first of many bureaucrats George will encounter who have seen and heard it all before — susses him out, our hero will spend the rest of the film on the opposite quest. He wants to be seen, but he’s stuck on the New York City streets, where being visible is the best way to be hidden, especially if you’re down and out.
“Time Out of Mind” is a movie about the homeless, but that imparts too much import upon it, and almost certainly implies sentimentality. Movie hobos tend to be holy fools, but George is closer to Mickey Rourke’s Randy “The Ram” in “The Wrestler”: an old-timer has-been with a lifetime of dire mistakes to which the film only ever half-alludes. He even has an estranged, though even angrier, daughter (Jena Malone), who seems to have entirely erased him from her life by the time he makes hesitant but creepy overtures to re-enter it. That plot thread never dominates what remains an episodic character study that moves, if at all, in circles. Usually all he’s trying to do is procure an always skeezy excuse for a bed, along the way picking up brief encounters with lowly nurses and security guards and the like who leave his life as quickly as they entered it.
For the most part George is one of the untold invisibles in the city, and filmmaker Oren Moverman (“The Messenger,” “Rampart”) almost treats him that way. Sometimes you have to find him inside busy frames, which are usually shot from a remove or behind glass storefronts or fences. Some of the shots are downright expressionistic: a nighttime scene consisting of a single long shot filmed behind what looks like a neon sign wouldn’t look too out of place in a Hou Hsiao-hsien movie, the images looking like they’ve been speckled in blood. Actors, including many, often cameoing seasoned pros, are shot as though they had no idea the camera was on them, milling about in shots that have more in common with surveillance footage than classical camera setups. It’s an approach Overman has been refining since “The Messenger” that has now reached is possible peak — one where the camera displaces our focus away from our nominal stars and even, in a way, away from humanity itself.