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The Price of Success
Zen Bones14 April 2002
Ironically, I just saw this a day after viewing Abbas Kiarostami's brilliant "Close Up", a story of a man who could no longer accept the endless banalities of his life and decided to become someone else (a film director!). That man had no sense of identity about himself but he knew what he cared about and what he believed in (the power of art and cinema). That brings him one up on the hero of this story. Vincent is a man who also cannot accept the banalities of his life, but he hasn't the foggiest idea of who he is or what he really cares about. It's as if he was born out of a computer software program. He knows what he's supposed to care about: nice home, nice car, nice bank account... But his work as an investor is so deprived of any human value that he loses all sense of values. His environment; a sterile, generic, upper middle-class vacuum that could make one believe that all of France has turned into Silicon Valley with a touch of the Scandinavian, has none of the passion or warmth that one identifies with being human. He has a loving wife, but according to his 'program', he believes that he would lose her if she knew that he was no longer able to function as a cog in the machine, and provide her with the lifestyle that she has grown accustomed to.

That is the first tragedy of Vincent, because his wife really does love him. The second tragedy of Vincent, is that even though he recognizes his need for freedom, he doesn't know how to use it. He's like a man who has been released from a lifetime of imprisonment, but still hangs around the prison yard because he is unable to comprehend what might be available to him. He'd lost his job because his love for being free was more important to him than keeping his appointments, but most of his time spent in his new-found freedom is in doing the same job he'd done before: investments. The only difference now is that he likes to believe that the investments are helping developing Third World countries. He knows that there really are no investments (he keeps the money that people give him and spends it on a nifty Range Rover, among other things), but momentarily, he can feel as if he is 'somebody' to his family and friends when he tells them of this meaningful new job he (allegedly) has.

Vincent has been described by many as 'everyman', but I think of him more as 'everyman who has just stepped through the looking glass'. Instead of taking a good, hard look at himself, he somehow ended up taking a look beyond himself because he could not find a reflection. He can't even recognize how much he's patterned his children to follow the same program he did. We see him teaching his kindergarten-age son how to 'hard sell' his toys at a school fair. Later, in a fascinating scene, we see him and his family doing what most people of his class do in their free time. They go shopping in an upscale, overpriced store to buy clothing that they know they don't really need. Vincent has it all, but it fills nothing in him. His family has it all, yet they don't seem to question the fact that they rarely spend any time together.

Laurent Candet has created a beautifully somber and sober look at the price of 'success'. The film is practically drained of all color, save for blues and grays, to illustrate the life force that has been systematically drained from Vincent throughout his life. And the score, a somber cello piece, refreshingly accentuates Vincent's mind instead of his actions (like most scores do). It is like a slow-moving merry-go-round that brings on a sense of familiarity that is simultaneously comfortable and unnerving. Because what the gist of it all is: is that no one wants to spend their life on a merry-go-round. Even a comfortable one.
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A subtle, involving, and truly perceptive film
Howard Schumann6 May 2002
Time Out is, in essence, a psychological study of a man who is in "denial" after he loses his job as a Financial Consultant and resorts to lies and deception to keep up the pretense of employment for the sake of his family. Yet it is also a searing portrait of the failure of the workplace to provide a nurturing environment for people (not a theme much explored in the Hollywood assembly line these days).

Time Out is a subtle, involving, and truly perceptive film that deals with the shallow, conformist world of middle management. It depicts how an individual's identity can be so wrapped up in what they do that they can scarcely remember who they really are and what is most meaningful in their life. As Jonathan Rosenbaum has pointed out, it is reminiscent of Melville's "Bartelby the Scrivener" in its depiction of a banal middle-aged businessman who would just prefer not to tell the truth.

Aurélien Recoing (a popular French stage actor) plays Vincent, who is so detached from reality he goes through the motions of pretending to work for the United Nations on a development mission. His "job" is conveniently based away from his wife and three children in Switzerland. Here he spends his hours driving around in his car, going in and out of hotels and conference rooms, exerting as much energy in his pretense as he would if he were actually working. I think the point is that his "pretend" job is different only in degree from his former "real" one.

Cantet uses the business world with its offices, hotels, and associates to portray an individual whose day-to-day activity consists only in constructing a false life. Vincent has to resort to obtaining money under false pretenses from his friends and his father and to assist a petty criminal in his smuggling attempts. For all his lies, Vincent confesses how suffocating his job has been. "I don't know what I'm supposed to do," he cries to his wife, under the pretense of discussing his non-existent new position.

As he stands on the outside looking in, he slowly loses touch with everything that has given his life meaning. His family, who he truly loves, also cannot provide the emotional support he needs. The impression is that the lack of emotional expression, the failure to communicate, and the skimming along on the surface of life is not new to this family. These are the same people who live next door to you, always happy and smiling who seem to have it together until a crisis comes. Then, they have no inner strength to deal with it.
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The Terrified Man...
robertconnor19 January 2005
A middle-aged middle class family man has a mid-life crisis.

Hardly an inspiring or original idea, yet Laurent Cantet creates a quite devastating and compelling landscape of one man's internal terror - terror at his situation and complete inability to express his feelings.

Through Cantet, a combination of economic script, astonishingly sparse and subtle performances, and Pook's deeply moving musical score, takes the viewer on a journey of displaced despair and futile attempts to paper over the cracks. Recoing is captivating, his face a turmoil of quiet bewilderment and pain, and he is ably matched by Viard as his increasingly unsettled partner. The penultimate scene between Recoing, Viard and their children is quite astonishing for its tension and disquiet.

In the end, however, the final scene says it all. Recoing's face tells us everything we need to know, and he really should have won every award going for this brilliant performance. Once again the French film industry shows us all how to make films.
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What it means to be human...or more specifically, a man
cestmoi14 April 2002
Has anybody ever set up a truck stop shot more magnificently?

This film is the full ten thing. Cast is spectacular, the photography superb, the unobtrusive music on the money, the story and its effects on the life of a family, affecting. Subtlety is a hallmark here. If you don't know the story line it must be even more powerful in a first viewing. As Fellini made at least two films that can be seen as defining the male of the Catholic/Italian species (8 1/2 & Amarcord) this magnificent film from France from a director I am not familiar with, defines "the problem of being male." I was fully involved and unable to complete a sentence for twenty minutes after the lights went up. But it is just not male identification at work here. It is the anguish and plight of the wife, magnificently played by Karen Viard, or the children who are as confused and anxious as any of us. The father, a very French man with a franc or euro, even redeems himself with love and compassion. And the "unsavory" seller of bogus goods who rescues our Vincent by offering employment, comes through swimmingly with compassion and understanding. I can not recommend this film enough. Please see it.
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Killing time
jotix10028 February 2005
"Time Out" seems to be the wrong translation for "L'emploi du temps". Laurent Cantet, the brilliant French director has given us a film that has a hypnotic quality and makes the viewer thinks. M. Cantet also wrote the material for the movie with Robin Campillo. This is, without a doubt, one of the most satisfying films coming from France in recent memory. As he proved with his "Human Resources", M. Cantet loves to present us stories in which characters are at the crossroads of their lives facing dilemmas related to things in the work environment.

If you haven't watched the film, perhaps you should like to stop reading now.

Vincent, the main character of "Time Out", is seen at the beginning of the film driving aimlessly through rural France, stopping at rest stops to sleep, buying things at roadside shops, or just idling around. When he calls his wife Muriel in his cell phone, we hear banal conversation between a married couple where the husband is calling home to check on his family. The only trouble is that Vincent is unemployed and he is reluctant to break the news to the family.

This man has a lovely wife, three normal children. His parents seem to have a good relationship with him. We see no sight of conflict. That is why so hard to understand what makes Vincent tick. Is it shame? Is it an ego thing? Is it his pride? Nothing seems to answer our questions because for all appearances, he is a normal person.

When Vincent hints about the possibility of a job in Geneva with the UN, his father, as well as the rest of the family believes him. Vincent witnesses a meeting in the UN building about the investment opportunities in Africa and how is that body going to be instrumental in helping the emerging economies. Suddenly, Vincent makes a plan to get some of his friends part with their savings by inventing a sure plan with incredible returns. In a way, it seems that people will be reluctant of schemes such as this one, but obviously, greed play a great deal in their minds and they give money to any charlatan. I know it first hand since I have a close friend that lost a lot of money this way, even though he understood about the risks involved.

Jean Michel, the mysterious man that happens to overhear Vincent pitching the idea to prospective investors, realizes the impossibility of the scheme. Vincent tells him about his plight and Jean Michel offers him a job helping him smuggle the counterfeit merchandise that makes a lot of money.

Unfortunately for liars, discovery is only a phone call away. Muriel finds out the truth and confronts Vincent about it. She tells her father in law, who has given an obscene amount of money to Vincent. When the father arrives at the house, Vincent flees into the night to the comforting highways that have become his best friends because they don't ask anything of him. Eventually, Vincent is seen calling Muriel from a roadside. She pleads with him to come home, but he refuses. The turmoil within his soul will not let him see the end of the tunnel. In his own mind, there is no solution for the problem he created.

The director hints to an easy solution for Vincent with an imminent suicide, but no. In the last sequence that ends the picture, we watch a Vincent dressed all in black being interviewed for a job that his father has been instrumental in securing for him. Are we seeing the truth, or are we seeing what the director has brilliantly done in order to get take us to a possibility that will register as the solution in our minds. The only thing is M. Cantet has left us clues about what really becomes of Vincent.

Aurelien Recoing, is a terrific actor. As times he reminds us of Kevin Spacey, and at times, he resembles a more ethereal James Gandolfini, but make no mistake, M. Recoing is an actor who captured the essence of the troubled Vincent. As Muriel, Karin Viard, is perfect. She gives a restrained performance. Also, Serge Livrozet, the kind Jean Michel, makes a wonderful appearance.

We await for the next work by the amazing Laurent Cantet.
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Highly nuanced psychological thriller
Camera Obscura20 March 2007
TIME OUT (Laurent Cantet - France 2001).

The English language title Time Out is not entirely fitting. Perhaps Time Running Out would be a more appropriate title, since this is exactly what Vincent, the main character, is going through.

Vincent (Aurélien Recoing) is a highly motivated financial consultant. Or, at least, that's what he used to be. Fact of the matter is, he lost his job three months ago and now concocts an elaborate facade to cover up the fact he is now unemployed. While his wife, Muriel (Karin Viard), thinks he's at work, Vincent is aimlessly roaming the highways, hanging out at rest stops, and sleeping in his car, regularly calling his wife to give her an update about his next meeting and apologizing for coming home late, before turning in for his overnight stay in his car. Vincent lives like a ghost, increasingly detached from his wife, children and former colleagues, he doesn't seem to realize the truth is closing in. One day, they will find out. But Vincent has gotten to a point where he's constructed his own dream world. He resorts to reading all kinds of economic pamphlets about his apparent line of business, studying and memorizing them like he really is active in this line of work. As Vincent needs money, he makes up a plan to defraud old friends and his parents out of their savings by letting them in on some bogus investment scheme. He conducts his business out of a hotel lounge, where he catches the eye of Jean-Michel (Serge Livrozet, a brilliant role), a "real" , experienced operator who immediately recognizes Vincent is a fraud. He offers Vincent a job in his own operation, meaning some extra pocket money and perhaps even a way out of his increasingly sticky situation.

Director Cantet's style is distinctly unflashy. Set against the wintry landscapes of Rhône-Alpes around Grenoble and Annecy, the film makes very good use of its locations. Whether it's the bland office complexes in the "zones commerciales" at the outskirts of anonymous towns, or the snow-clad mountains surrounding them, it seems to blend perfectly with the film's tone. Accompanied by a beautiful classical score, Cantet shows himself a remarkably sharp and observant storyteller. Although the film maintains interest throughout, the running time of 132 minutes did seem a tad long, and Vincent's lengthy economic arguments when conning his friends and relatives (some of them business men themselves) out of their money weren't terribly convincing. His arguments range from unconvincing to downright nonsense. At least he would'n have convinced me, but even my 91 year old grandmother wouldn't have bought any of this for a moment. But, some of these inconsistencies aside, this is a skilfully constructed film and an engrossing psychological drama that slowly unfolds like a thriller with a brilliant performance by Aurélien Recoing to top it off.

Camera Obscura --- 8/10
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A Masterpiece
There is a telling moment toward the end of the new French film L'Emploi Du temps (Time Out) when the main protagonist confides to another character that he hated his previous job so much that many times while driving to a designated business appointment he would intentionally miss the appropriate exit and continue driving aimlessly , not wanting to leave his car. This behavior eventually results in his dismissal , a fact he hides from his family.

A white collar worker who has lost enthusiasm for his job , Vincent spends each "work day" sitting in public parks and eateries fabricating imaginary business meetings and appointments , talking to his wife on a cell phone and promising her that he will be home soon ; for supposed longer trips he sleeps in his car at night , interrupted at times by parking lot security who gruffly tell him to leave, What follows is a devastating tale of lies and more lies , of eroding relationships with wife , children , parents and friends. Vincent finds himself in a nether world and this film's director , Laurent Cantet , brings a chillingly cold but compassionate eye to the proceedings. Curtly refusing help from a former friend and business associate who is aware of his predicament , Vincent becomes enmeshed in a labyrinth of deceitful money making schemes. If all this seems like so much high melodrama , be assured that Mr. Cantet has painted as naturalistic a portrait of one man's modern day angst as has been seen on the screen in many a moon. Here is a filmmaker who possesses a keen eye for ordinary , everyday life. What distinguishes this magnificent film from most contemporary releases is its total lack of artifice. Each sequence in this riveting movie is so spontaneous that it convinces the viewer that what is happening is real. Much of the credit for this must go to Aurelien Recoing as Vincent. A handsome French actor , he portrays a likable fellow encroaching middle age who has lost his way ; as the film progresses , his sturdy frame becomes weighed down as much from literally running away from home and responsibilities as running from himself. Equally impressive is Karin Viard as Vincent's loving but exasperated wife. The movie also benefits immeasurably from the director's penchant for casting on professionals in supporting roles , no better an example than the presence of Serge Livrozet as a petty crook , a character who serves as an important catalyst for the film's gripping denouement. Mr. Livrozet , who acts with the authority of a seasoned professional and turns in a brilliant performance , is in real life an ex-convict who apparently lived the life he portrays on screen. This adds a verisimilitude that makes watching this movie such a sobering experience. As spontaneous as this picture feels , it doesn't lack for a meticulous production design. Elegant camera work , carefully appropriated sets ( the interiors of the Geneva office building Vincent wanders through look as though they were photographed and designed by Stanley Kubrick ) add to the chilly atmosphere. Jocelyn Pook's melancholy chamber music seems suffocatingly oppressive at first but achieves an overwhelming resonance at the story's climax. One man's isolation may not seem like an earth shaking subject for a movie.

Playwrights from Becket to Genet to Miller have traversed this area very eloquently in the past. But Laurent Cantet has fashioned a modern day morality tale that very quietly and methodically builds to a fever pitch of anger , loss and sorrow. The final scene of this film is devastating ; it will fill you with contradictory emotions. It is one of the great endings in movies. L'Emploi Du temps is a giant of a film , a masterpiece for our time.
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highly recommended mood movie
awalter124 August 2004
When Vincent--a tall, quiet, morose middle-aged man--is fired from his job, he finds himself unexpectedly cut loose from society and set adrift from life as he knows it. Instead of looking for a job, he casually cons some family and friends out of substantial chunks of money in order to support his wife and three children while he spends week after week driving through the European countryside in winter. A subdued but inescapable tension builds for the audience as we continually fail to understand what motivates Vincent to risk so much, and this tension becomes only more profound when we realize that Vincent himself does not understand his actions. "Time Out" is a hypnotically sad story told at a measured, melancholy pace with a haunting musical score that circumscribes Vincent's strange, incomprehensible mystery.
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"Pervasive study of character..."
Sindre Kaspersen16 February 2012
French screenwriter and director Laurent Cantet's second feature film which he co-wrote with his frequent collaborator Robin Campillo, is loosely based on the life story of French impostor and murderer Jean Claude-Romand. It tells the story about a middle-aged man named Vincent who lives in France with his wife named Muriel and their three children. Vincent is a busy man who spends most of his time on the road, on business trips and in meetings, but he hardly ever shares anything about his professional life with his wife who spends most of her time at home with her children. Vincent has recently lost his job, but instead of telling this to his family he invents a false story about being offered a new prestigious job in Genova. Vincent is determined to maintain a certain facade, but his betrayal begins to occupy his every breath and suddenly he finds himself deceiving not only his parents, his wife and his children, but also his closest friends.

French filmmaker Laurent Cantet's stylistically and precisely directed fictional tale about a man who in fear of losing face and letting his family down entangles himself in an increasing circle of lies which distances him furthermore from his loved ones, draws a realistic portrayal of a man living in a united and competitive society where the value of success and status apparently has more significance than humane values. This pervasive study of character which examines themes such as family relations, interpersonal relations, alienation, betrayal and love, is a finely paced and character-driven story with naturalistic milieu depictions, notable cinematography by the director's frequent collaborator and cinematographer Pierre Milon and with an effective score by British composer Jocelyn Pook which underlines the poignant atmosphere.

This throughout riveting independent film which was produced by Caroline Benjo who has produced most of Laurent Cantet's feature films, is brilliantly narrated and functions both as a psychological drama and a subtle thriller. An austere, gripping and detailed character drama with remarkable acting performances by French actor Aurélien Recoing and French actress Karin Viard which gained, among other awards, the Don Quixote Award at the 58th Venice Film Festival in 2001.
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A penetrating study of one man's unique reaction to being fired
bandw24 January 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Vincent has recently been fired from his job as a financial planner. He had been living an upper middle class life in eastern France--nice home, loving wife, three young kids. He does not tell his family about his being fired, and not just because he does not want to face the humiliation. He remarks that his old job used to require his driving long distances and that was the only time he was happy. He said that he could just drive forever listening to music in a thoughtless state. In fact, that is how he lost his job, he would be so in the moment when driving that he would miss his turnoffs. That seems to be what Vincent wants, just to cruise in neutral without the obligations of job and family.

When Vincent lost his job he entered into a sort of fantasy world where he made up a position as a worker for the United Nations as a manager who would set up teams of managers to set up companies in Africa. He would seek and get investors based on this falsehood. Lest this scam sounds unbelievable, recall that this was in a time when any crazy scheme seemed to be making money and investors wanted in on the action (think Bernie Madoff). It's ironic that the job environment that Vincent had been cut loose from endowed him with the skills to run the scam he did.

When Vincent walks the halls of various businesses, where people are in meetings, exchanges are taking place between boss and secretary, phone calls are being taken, paperwork being filled out, it looks like important stuff is happening. But the undercurrent is that there is more busywork going on than anything of value. However, you do see the human value of belonging to the social structure of a corporation.

As Vincent, Aurélien Recoing is skillful in capturing the illusory world that he has entered. Karin Viard, as Vincent's caring and concerned wife, is particularly good.

At some level Vincent knows that his time out must end. As evidence of this we see him paying back a friend that he had taken money from as an investor. There is a powerful scene toward the end where Vincent's whole family confronts him and he absconds by jumping out the window. From there he literally spends time lost in the wilderness.

The final scene has Vincent being offered a high level job where he would have a staff of eight and a lot of responsibility. You would think that that would be a happy ending, but as Vincent's eyes slid to the side as the job was being explained to him, this was for me a depressing ending, since I sensed he was soon going to be right back where he was when he was wandering in the dark. It will be but another chapter in the life of a man who never really made a decision about what he wanted to do, but rather just went with the flow and followed the money and society's pressures. It is a commentary on how so many well paying jobs now amount to moving bits around in computer memories, and dealing with paperwork and phone calls. And how for many people those jobs provide such little meaning and satisfaction.
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A subtle, powerful, and engrossing film about real life
mattymatt3022 January 2004
Warning: Spoilers
POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD:There are many people in the world who seem to go to work every day in the same, respectable but unstimulating office/white collar job and seem to have no problems with that. Those people, if they really exist, won't appreciate this film. The movie deals mostly with the male myth of men being successful breadwinners and 'rocks' of their families. Fearless money earning automotons that never doubt or shrink in the responsibilities society has assigned them. Society is still very much expecting the man to be the financial leader and emotional center of families, but why? Women now have careers and strive for financial equality to men, but how many want a husband to take on the more passive role of stay at home caregiver like one character in the film? If, as a man, you have had doubts about your place in the world, whether your job or career defines who you are, this movie will speak to you. It may not cheer you up (OK, it definitely won't), but it may let you know that you aren't alone in questioning your place in the world.
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The best movie I've seen since a long time
saxtouri8 March 2003
Instead of dealing with meteors falling to earth, terrorists with nuclear missiles or cute ladies who have a long time to shag somebody, this movie is talking about some real problems of the modern society: a normal life is a tragedy. We have to work on subjects we hate, for people and enterprises we don't like. Dreaming is not allowed. Family is something that puts more appointments in our already full schedule, and love is corresponding to these commitments. No room for a middle-aged kid to play and leave. Until the kid flips out.

The main character fools everybody, his family, his friends the whole society he is trapped into. He is not a bad guy, he just needs to "steel" some time for himself. And when I say "time for himself", I don't mean having fun in parties with drugs and chicks. This guy prefers to drive his car around while listening to radio and staring from his window the landscape changing, that kind of stuff. He then tries something more adventurous, but I prefer not to continue on the plot, as some people may not have seen the movie yet.

It is simple story, easy to watch but not to thing about it.
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Vinny Liar
paul2001sw-122 August 2004
People may lie for the thrill of being appreciated, or out of the fear of not being so; but while a fantasy world may initially seem liberating, it can become a prison as well. These themes are explored in 'Time Out', the story of Vincent, a man who loses his job and pretends he hasn't, rather than face up to the truth. There's a nice absence of didacticism in the way this film is assembled, a rich picture is assembled but without any attempt to ram a single interpretation down the audience's throat; it adds up to a fine portrait of depression, and a loneliness that oddly can exist only within a relationship. But there's also a creativeness in Vincent's behaviour which is necessary to generate the plot but which doesn't quite square with the rest of the movie: the film is more convincing once Vincent is deeply trapped in the web of his own lies, rather than when he is spinning it. At the heart of 'Time Out', Vincent remains an enigma unclarified: it is this that is both the film's strength and weakness. It's not a perfect film, and the start is quite dull, but the longer it lasts, the deeper it feels.
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A hypnotic study of work and identity
Chris Knipp3 June 2002
Warning: Spoilers
(Warning: Spoilers)

Laurent Cantet's `Time Out' (`L'Emploi du Temps') is a suspenseful thriller about joblessness and identity, family and friends, the modern void many of us live in from day to day. (`The mass of men live lives of quiet desperation,' as Thoreau said.) When the movie begins Vincent is already driving around, sleeping in his car, and calling from the hyperspace of his

cell phone to pretend to his family that he's still at work. Later he admits he's not at his old job but claims he's working in Switzerland at an even better one, for the UN, helping developing nations in Africa. When we see him on his wanderings in hotels, parking lots, and corporate headquarters we feel he's killing time (the French title, `L'Emploi du Temps' simply means `use of time') but also fantasizing, escaping, and gathering material for his scam. He's creating a new life for himself, and when he's back among friends and family he's enthusiastic. The fantasy has him excited and the `job' contains the one thing he liked about his old job – the long drives – without the boring meetings and paper work.

The friend I saw `Time Out' with has experience with the unemployed and said this behavior is commonplace: lots of people who are out of work pretend they're not. But the movie doesn't feel commonplace to me. I feel it creates a `new cinematic language,' as they said of Antonioni's `L'Avventura,' which had a similarly dreamlike, glacial pace. In both cases the mood is compelling and hypnotic. `Time Out' also evokes some of the films of Chabrol, or the Ripley novels of Patricia Highsmith, in showing an apparently conventional bourgeois character who underneath is isolated, strange and scary. The power of such pieces is the tension between the conventional and the criminal. Vincent is soon doing something illegal – bilking friends and former co-workers out of large and small sums of money in a get-rich-quick scheme that's supposed to relate to his connections in Africa – and then he's recruited by Jean-Michel (the smooth, reptilian Serge Livrozet), a dealer in contraband. It's strange to see how conventional Vincent always seems through all this. But the really shocking thing is that he's pretending to be someone he isn't not just to his friends and former associates and anyone he meets but also to his wife and three kids. A strange sense of disquiet comes over us as we see Vincent getting away with all his scams. It seems nothing will ever go wrong for him but we know he is doomed. Or is he? The ending is the biggest surprise of all.

Aurélien Recoing, the gifted movie newcomer who plays Vincent in `Time Out,' looks something like Kevin Spacey, but unlike Spacey he isn't sly, self-conscious, and stagey but has a recessive manner. When an emotion plays across Recoing's face it seems teased out of him from outside rather than projected from within. His apparent joy at his invented new `job' puts us off guard because we'd expect his twilight-zone wandering and the unemployment he's hiding to depress him. His older son Julien (Nicolas Kalsch) is cool and wants to ignore Vincent, but does he `suspect'? I don't think so; I think Julien is just being a rebellious teenager – at first. Julien's steady, straightforward demeanor is a point of reference for the movie. He's the only person in the family who's sure, in his limited way, of who he is and what his values are. Vincent's wife, Muriel (Karin Viard) is on the cusp, uncertain, suspicious, but a lover as well as a wife, willing to respond to whatever signals Vincent sends out. When she meets Vincent in Switzerland there's a disquieting scene where she keeps seeming to disappear in the snow. The scene reflects her uncertainty. Will she follow Vincent wherever he goes? Almost imperceptibly as the movie progresses the situation becomes more and more dangerous for Vincent and his fabricated world seems about to explode.

The paradox is that Vincent is trying to be free by deceiving everybody and reinventing himself, but he is completely the slave of their expectations and of his scams. His family is always present to him and to us – isn't the whole game primarily for their benefit? -- but he's terribly alone. In signaling that aloneness, again Julien is a key figure because Julien avoids his father, then rejects him. Muriel is searching for him, looking into that recessive face, going over his body, trying to find a truth she can respond to.

It's worthwhile to see `Time Out' as a riff on a theme rather than a pedestrian recreation of the true story it's based on – whose dramatic ending Cantet has removed. The movie doesn't just tell a story, though it's full of the suspense a good story contains. It's a disquieting mood piece that shows how we're all groping toward identity – often feeling like we're frauds – and how modern office workers are detached from anything real. Cantet's previous movie, `Human Resources,' was about a factory strike and dramatized the conflicts between a working class father and his well educated son who, as a manager, is expected to supervise his own father's early dismissal from a lifetime spent at the factory. Not many directors could have made such a social issue both so intellectually clear and so emotionally fraught. This time Cantet has continued his study of labor issues but carried them to a philosophical, indeed existential, level, and `Time Out' is a more original and thought provoking movie than `Human Resources.' Its dark, mournful vision creates a disturbing aftereffect. Instead of murdering his family, as the real-life original of Vincent did, or simply disappearing, as he seems about to do, this Vincent reappears seven months after his firing to be offered a plum job at a new firm. We know he will not like this job. It's a terrifying `No Exit' finale, very upbeat and absolutely depressing.
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Vincent's oblivious journey in taking some time out for himself became "une grande illusion"
The beginning shot as the credits appear looks so painterly - the soft tone seemed serenely neutral - not until a slight movement in the picture do I realize what we're looking at and where the scene is. This is another film (previously I commented on "World Traveler") distributed by ThinkFilm, whose company logo has the ' i ' upside down in 'Think.' TIME OUT is challenging for the camera: there's quite a percentage of time we spend with central character Vincent (a distinctive, subtle portrayal from Aurélien Recoing) inside a car, on the road at night time, out in the fog or rain, even scenes with extensive snow and whiteness all around. Cinematographer Pierre Milon skillfully delivered.

The English film title "Time Out" could suggest just that: Vincent needs to 'time out,' pause and take a look at his life so far. The French title "L'emploi du temps" indicates the use of the occasion, which Vincent certainly does: he's literally taking the 'given' time, making use of it by giving himself a break from the accumulated stress at work and mounting expectations at home. He looks at ease being out of his 9-year long corporate position. He enjoys being alone by himself driving and singing along to a tune. Such bliss.

It's stress putting on a mask. Solitude is the temporary palliative. For a while Vincent is in control of the situation at hand. Even managed to transiently delight Muriel, his dear wife. When will this play-acting - lying without a blink, stop? When the tap is finally loosen a bit - meeting Jean-Michel, the bottled up truth released. How relieving to pour out to a total stranger. It's a respite: he's actually happy not having to exhaust himself in weaving his lies, keeping up a front, hustling friends and father for finances.

Again, as in director Laurent Cantet's previous film "Ressources humaines," there is the latent gap between father and son. Candid communication and patient understanding from both sides are dearly lacking. In TIME OUT, Vincent is often on the road and away from home and family (a schoolteacher wife and 3 children). He assumes the family man responsibility matter of factly, unaware of the increasing chasm he's creating between himself and Muriel (sensitively portrayed by Karin Viard), even though he continues, as usual, calling her from 'work' on his cell phone, letting her know his 'whereabouts', putting up a front under his conscience-clearing rationale that "Muriel is too weak to take the news" (that he was actually fired from his job). Remorselessly he spins one small lie after another to be 'on top of' things. Will things just carry on as he blindly continues his time out? When will she find out? This is not 1957's "The Sweet Smell of Success" or 1991's "Chameleon Street" (both excellent films). TIME OUT is very much its own powerful medium, poignantly depicts the dormant treachery of modern work life and demanding family ideals. (Almost shades of director Bryan Forbes 1975's "The Stepford Wives" - reverse gender, I felt.)

Writer-director Cantet seems to know corporate jargon/language quite well: in both his films, he incorporated perceptively in the script the ways of big business in studious detail. "Human Resources" 1999 and "Time Out" 2001 are well worth the filmic experience - more than meets the eye, for sure.
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Painfully dull
elliott-347 August 2005
This has to be one of the most painfully dull, awful films I have ever had the misfortune to sit through in my entire life. You'd have more fun having your nails pulled out with a pair of pliers. I went to see this at the its Premier at the London Film Festival. The cinema was full - the director had a strong reputation following his success with "Human Resources". What followed was a yawnathon about a bloke I was never persuaded to care about who pretends to his family and friends that he has a job at the UN. And? Well, that's about as exciting as it gets. Take my advice - don't take time to watch this pile of Frogspawn. Bon chance.
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What did I miss?
jonr-315 March 2003
Having forced myself to finish watching this tedious and poorly made film only because I was viewing it with a friend--who however fell asleep 2/3 of the way through--and then reading the glowing comments on this board, I find myself baffled. What did I miss?

For me, the performances, with the exception of the role of the smuggler, were mediocre at best. The only halfway complex character was, again, the smuggler.

After twenty minutes of this interminable film, I felt like screaming from boredom. I wish I could have simply fallen asleep like my friend.

Note: I'm not being anti-Gallic in my assessment, which the fervent tributes of my fellow commenters leads me to suspect may even be irrational. My (ancient) college degree is in French, I love French culture, I deeply respect the country, its citizens, and many of its exports... But in honesty I just have to say this strikes me as possibly the worst film I've ever seen. (Until this viewing, the winner for all-time worst was "Signs.")
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A Penetrating Look at the Conformity, Alienation, and Spiritual Emptiness of Modern Life and How One Man Rebels Against It
writerasfilmcritic31 May 2005
In "Time Out," the acting and writing are superb, the camera work always interesting, and the cello score haunting and melancholy. It is an oversimplification to say that this intelligent movie is about losing one's job and going to unethical extremes to make ends meet, for it is nothing less than a penetrating look at the conformity, alienation, and spiritual emptiness of modern life and how one man rebels against it. Vincent Renault doesn't simply get fired. He courts his firing because he is sick and tired of the shallow yuppie grind, his responsibilities to his young family, and the unrealistic expectations of his affectionate but controlling wife, his overbearing father, and his affluent circle of friends. He has experienced a crisis of confidence following a gradual loss of meaning, and for a guy who "functions on enthusiasm," it's too much to bear. He thus appears to be singularly unmotivated to deal with so-called reality. All he wants to do is "drive around, smoking and listening to the radio," with no obligations to anyone but himself. Sleeping in his car yet in constant touch with home by cell phone, he maintains the illusion of continued employment as a traveling consultant for the French company that terminated him because he can't face the disappointment of his family and friends nor stand up to their renewed pressures upon him. Knowing this facade of normality can't last for long, he invents an exciting new career in Switzerland, somewhat removed from their prying eyes, but the ruse only pushes him deeper into a self-destructive web of lies. Borrowing a large sum from his father "to get set up" and defrauding old acquaintances, he sidesteps the growing concern and suspicion of his wife and avoids the wide-eyed, vaguely accusing stares of his spoiled, middle class children. As he explains to a sympathetic Swiss hotelier, a worldliwise smuggler of cheap knockoffs, he is simply trying "to win some time" before he must face the inevitable. When it comes in the form of a resolution to his dilemma, we sense that his troubled soul has not been palliated in the least.
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To be my own person, who sets the rules?
Peegee-322 April 2002
Shakespeare spoke of the tangled web of deceit suggesting it was a terrible trap. Laurent Cantet presents us with another view. His hero in this film, Vincent (played to perfection by Aurelien Recoing) appears to revel in the freedom his dissembling brings...at least for a time. A middle-aged, middle class man who has lost his job keeps this information from his family and sets out on a complex journey of survival, both existentially and financially, involving schemes that he eventually has ambivalent feelings about. We also see another side to this complex man...the loving husband, father and son. Are we to judge and dislike this man? Should we cast the first stone?

I was particularly impressed by the subtle way Cantet depicted Muriel, Vincent's wife (performed with sensitivity and grace by Karin Viard). Her suspicions and uncertainties are written only on her lovely face...very little is ever said. And yet she's not seen as the long-suffering little woman...not at all. She appears independent and strong.

And then there's the affecting scenes in the snow-filled mountains... in that place of isolation (so representative of...well...of us all). There's majestic beauty and danger.

The mystery, the thought=provoking qualities of this film have made it for me a haunting and moving experience...One that I'd certainly recommend!
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Stupor of a salesman
nunculus21 April 2002
Playing authority figures in dark suits, the actor Stellan Skarsgard always suggests a noble melancholy, a weatherbeaten soul underneath his Swedish-oil-exec good looks. William H. Macy has made a career out of essaying the disappointments of pride-in-professionalism white men. Aurelien Recoing, the hero of Laurent Cantet's L'EMPLOI DU TEMPS, doesn't summon the instant empathy we feel for those actors. Cantet is a schematist in the style of Arthur Miller: without Miller's cornballs, but also without his visceral punch. Recoing's very body seems to be a manifestation of Cantet's two-sided patness. From the front, Recoing has some of the bland, boyish-haired handsomeness of a Skarsgard or a young Klaus Maria Brandauer. From the back, balding and bearlike-hulking, Recoing is a monster or a wreck. Cantet's movies--old-school, slowly downhill-rolling tragedies about the inhumanity of late capitalism--use Jekyll-and-Hyde dichotomies for thudding dramatic effects.

Recoing's Vincent has lost his job as a management consultant. Instead of getting another one, he drives around, hangs out in office-building lobbies and hotel bars, and generally dresses and comports like an upper-middle-class Frenchman. When he starts dreaming up a fantasy job--bringing bucks to developing markets in the Third World via the U.N.--he starts taking money from all-too-eager friends to invest. Then a middle-class mobster is onto Vincent's scheme. And from there...before you can say FARGO, the cards come tumblin' down.

Like Cantet's last movie, HUMAN RESOURCES, we are meant to hate the game, not the player, and to believe that a rigged, soulless system has robbed Cantet's characters of their capacity to experience joy on earth. But what does this character want, exactly? At one moment, he seems to genuinely wish he had the idealistic U.N. job--something, at his stage of life, with his background in the for-profit world, he could never attain. At other moments he seems to want to drive around the snowy countryside and listen to golden oldies. At still others, he seems to enjoy, a la Kevin Spacey in AMERICAN BEAUTY, the undemanding work of selling hot stereos and toasters for his mafia friend. And yet Cantet has designed the movie to make it seem as if the need for status, for patriarchal prestige, has led Vincent into the fantasy land that is his undoing. The ending--a softer landing than you might be expecting--is meant to be soul-chilling.

But what's the big whip? Everyone has dreamed of a life of aimless rambling; those who have it never seem very happy with it. (Cantet could've tested his ideas if he had bought Vincent a ticket to a lazybones' paradise.) And Cantet underlines the irony that Vincent's hustling to keep himself in non-work is in itself a more than full-time job. Cantet's movies struggle for a Miller-like inevitability, but they always fail to persuade on a human level; his crushed heroes seem more constructs than creatures. One brilliantly observant (and shudder-inducingly cruel) moment: Vincent's wife catches on to his ruse when he brings a buddy from the office to dinner--a pockmarked hustler who is too low-class to inhabit the highflown world Vincent pretends to have a berth in. The jig is up for Vincent because his wife's snob meter goes off. Too bad nothing else is as acutely examined or observant.
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"Beauty" doesn't necessarily involve "pretty"
skytomm16 November 2004
This is a beautifully crafted and acted film that develops characters that I identified with all-too readily. We all know - and perhaps are - characters just like these in today's workaday, employee-as-cannon fodder world. So, what's so special about that? The story has the Faulkner-esquire quality of describing the large through the very small, microcosmic family portrayed here. Vincent's unwillingness to share his grief and his efforts to shield his family whom he loves dearly from his inner turmoil bespeaks a great strength that is plainly evident on the actor Aurélien Recoing's face. And his Muriel (Karin Viard) is just as wordlessly expressive and movingly credible.

This is not a happy film. This is not passive entertainment. L'employ du Temps is a terrific example of the filmmakers' and actors' art. See it, if you are serious about how film can stir your emotions.
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Among Best French films of the last 5 years
Tilly Gokbudak26 October 2004
I was quite impressed with this film, which I have wanted to see since I was at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah where/when it made its' North American debut. There have been many French films that have been critics' favorites over the last few years. But, aside "My Wife is An Actress," I was at least sligtly disappointed with many of them, ranging from "Irma La Vep" to "8 Women" (and "Jet Lag" was as inept as any Hollywood offering). But, "Time Out" really delivers. The opening scene where we the title character Vincent slumped over a car wheel as a school bus dumps the kids makes one thinks he is waiting on his child, but alas the child is at home. The scene also illustrates Vincent's double life and the reason he can not be the suburban father everyone thinks he is. The acting and direction in this film are quite crisp. It is also brilliantly edited. It is good to finally see a French film that lives up to high expectations. You will like this one.
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Haunting and relevant to modern life
Parker Lewis11 March 2016
Warning: Spoilers
Time Out helped me to truly appreciate French movies, because much of it is based on emotion rather than action to drive the scene.

For example the protagonist...the actor's facial expression of disgust and humiliation when asked to join in a theft ring was amazing. If it was an American movie, you can imagine the guy would be full of wrath and swing a baseball bat at anything that moves and doesn't move (a la Michael Douglas in Falling Down). But the actor didn't need to convey such bodily action.

The ending was a bit poignant, and I sometimes wonder whatever happened to him. Did he end up working, supporting his family?

Remarkably Time Out is based on a true story, although the true story is far more violent and disturbing than Time Out.
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Vacuous waste
Mike P17 May 2013
I found Time Out to be an insipidly dull and uninteresting mess, with nary an ounce of emotion or insight to be gleaned. The main culprits are the script, which fails to offer any kind of insight into the protagonist's baffling actions, and the direction, which drags out the uninteresting details of his mind-numbing scheme interminably instead of attempting to connect you with any of the characters on an emotional level. When making a film about a "regular" person doing things as ridiculous as these, it is crucial to do these things, and Time Out does neither. Instead, I was stuck for two astonishingly slow hours watching a man the film never tells me anything about engage in a laughably amateurish plot for reasons that make no sense. The "tension" I have read reviews praise this film for generating must have been surgically removed before the film made its way into my DVD player, because last time I checked, tension over a film's events requires at least an iota of engagement with what is occurring on screen, which this film seems utterly uninteresting in eliciting.
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melodrama about banality
chairvaincre4 October 2005
something about this movie just annoys me - despite some good scenes (eg when the husband & wife are walking in the snow), and the cinematography's OK - the symbolism is heavy-handed, the characters are unsympathizable/unempathizable (from the midlife- macho-pride husband to his whiny wife and obnoxious father), and the subject matter - the softer side of middle-age patriarchal psychology, i suppose - is boring, in concept and how the director played it out, w/ a very contrived ending (where everyone loves the main guy despite everything). it's advertised as a quasi-thriller/film noir commentary, but ends up ordinary (like the french takes on 'american beauty'). sure, 'ordinary' - that's the point, but life's ordinary - why bore yourself further? there's only 1 reaction to this movie: (sure it's a little embarrassing but) Get over it.

(don't get me wrong - i love french new wave & new new wave - there are contemporary 'boring' directors (akerman, assayas, the taiwanese) who are way superior in terms of vision & technique.)
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