Time Out Of Mind

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TIME OUT OF MIND—-“well-intended”, “sincere”, “felt”, “measured study”. There, now we have the guilt-adduced compliments out of the way right off.  As far as “entertainment”, the glacier-paced 121 minutes of this 2014 drama shuffle in narcoleptic step with One Day In The Life Of Ivan Denisovich.  In that torpid 1970 class-field-trip filming of Solzhenitsyn’s book, lead Tom Courtenay was victim of Soviet government persecution, sentenced by Stalinist ideology to bleak exile above the Arctic Circle.  Here, lead Richard Gere has fallen through the cracks of capitalism’s frenzy, seemingly by his own hand (insert bottle of cheap booze), and exists homeless on the streets of New York.

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There are over three and a half million homeless in the US (how many across the planet?) and their myriad sad stories are as varied as their last names. It’s another of the many giant problems we live with, and certainly as deserving of a compassionate look and running time in the cinema light as___ (insert issue here)…*

Beyond being a fine (and too often unappreciated) actor, Gere is also noted as an outspoken and committed humanitarian with a wide range of interests. He co-produced, after doing some fair amount of street-research. On screen in nearly every scene, Gere has any number of reactive moments that he could have played up for ‘gimme sympathy’, but he hones it sharp and honest, and seems fearlessly unafraid to show himself weathered, wretched and utterly beat.  The rest of the cast are likewise fine. Gere’s blighted lost soul encounters characters either sharing or affected by his situation, done well by Jena Malone (who had real-life experience with homelessness growing up), Ben Vereen and Kyra Sedgwick. Malone has the barest material to work with and leaves the strongest impression.  Steve Buscemi has a few scenes, along with his brother Michael, but they’re so brief they’re distracting. Other players include Jeremy Strong and Geraldine Hughes.

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Written & directed by Oren Moverman, who provides visual immediacy but lets impact be diluted by the soporific pace–it’s a half-hour too long, and has too many shots held for pensive, drawn-out seconds that are meant to lend gravity but result in irritation–“okay,I get it, he’s walking down the street, and..and..and?…” Sometimes impatience is justified.

Beyond commendable intent and the performances, the directorial choice Moverman made that works best is with use of ambient sound—street racket, snatches of passerby conversation,a droning low-level hurricane of white noise that immerse you in the mans dismal daily experience.  Alas, it wears out the viewer/listener much in the same way city hum actually does, so it ends up 50/50 for effect. No way this movie was going to have any commercial success: beyond an exercise in empathy and craft, who is it for then, if it won’t reach enough people to generate some change?

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*As a meditation on the scourge of homelessness the movie has its heart in the right place, but the delivery works against it. Save the self-congratulatory mewling over Art when simple delivery counts, demanding to share besieged consciences with war/s, political corruption, economic fraud, human trafficking, wildlife massacre, the Amazon, child soldiers, MS-13, the Pacific garbage patch, terrorism, loss of privacy, racism, sexism, medical costs, aging, nuclear plants, nuclear weapons, mass shootings, religious intolerance, media cowardice, waste waste waste waste……

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