After my first encounter with Oren Moverman's direction style with his stunning debut The Messenger, it's very surprising that he dialled back and made a subdued film like Time Out Of Mind for his third feature. I've yet to see the infamous Rampart, but I'm a fan of his other writing work for unconventional musician biopics with I'm Not There and this year's Love & Mercy. Bringing in one of the many Dylans of the former, Richard Gere, he's presenting one of his most restrained works, almost to a fault. It's very loose and aimless, but as a portrait of homelessness, it can be quite apt, however that only goes so far. While The Messenger is very intimate and in-your-face at times, this is deliberately disconnected with the frequently impressive photography selecting angles of Gere from several feet back and behind glass. At once it shows a world that reflects how we distance ourselves from the homeless and how it's such a volatile place where anything can come around the corner and harm them. It improves as the plot gently thickens as Gere's George Hammond tracks down his daughter and makes attempts to find sources of staying afloat.
He's a more passive protagonist than you'd expect, one beaten down by offscreen years of apparent exhausting failure, but his eventual effort to get back somewhat on his feet is a minor catharsis. If George was more developed it could have been one of Gere's finest performances, but he at least feels very lived-in. He's sympathetic, but anytime he opens his mouth it gives us more reason not to like him and understanding of why he's there. It usually comes from a brutally honest place. Also that casting of Gere gives a thorough implication that the homeless can be anyone, as does the inclusion of Ben Vereen. If anything, it shows how hard it is to get back on the system if you step off it. But while it's a loose yet controlled film, the problem is its ambiguity and its simplicity. A lot of the themes you immediately skim off feel a little obvious and undercooked for such a disconnected package. It could've been more complex, but maybe it is and it's too cryptic to pick up on what Moverman is trying to do. Still, Time Out Of Mind is quite good work from everyone, including Jena Malone, and it definitely doesn't deserve the critical lashing it received at festivals. It's certainly engrossing, if not completely satisfying.
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