Thursday, October 2, 2014

Time Out of Mind

Time Out of Mind is playing on October 5 and 9 at the New York Film Festival

Oren Moverman's Time Out of Mind wants to boost our awareness of the homeless and make us think about the way that homelessness can erode a person's sense of worth and make him feel invisible. Throughout, we simply walk a few miles in the shoes of George (Richard Gere), a New Yorker who's just lost the last of a series of tenuous perches. The film isn't preachy, but its indie-movie artiness sometimes get in the way of its noble mission, making us think more about the techniques being used than the effects they're meant to create.

When he shot On the Bowery in 1956, Lionel Rogosin achieved a remarkable sense of realism in part by casting homeless people—including the lead actor, Ray Salyer—as thinly fictionalized versions of themselves. Moverman and Gere, who brought this project to the director, are doing something more conventional here, casting well-known actors as homeless people. The audience's relationship with these performers may encourage identification with and empathy for the characters they play, but it also creates some distance from those characters, at least initially. When we spot Ben Vereen as the compulsively chatty homeless man who attaches himself to George, or Kyra Sedgewick as one of George's "lady friends," or, most of all, Gere himself as George, we have to do a little mental gymnastics, accepting a celebrity as someone who's overlooked or literally unseen by the busy hordes passing by. The actors are all good enough to overcome that handicap with time (Gere does a particularly fine job, radiating a quiet intensity befitting a man who feels things deeply, but has trouble thinking clearly and is prone to lapses he calls "losing time"), but every time we see another famous face, we have to go through that mental recalibration.

Read the rest on Slant Magazine

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