Once you’ve got past the idea of Richard Gere pretending to be a homeless alcoholic man on the streets of New York – he has stubble here but you can tell a movie star’s skin and teeth a mile off – Oren Moverman’s latest is one of those films that slowly draws you in to its main character’s plight and holds your interest throughout. Gere plays George, who finds himself homeless for the first time in his life at the start of the film, and the narrative follows his initial struggles on the street while being economical with details of his past: he searches for places to stay at night, graduating from benches to homeless shelters, while he is frustrated by bureaucratic red tape as he tries to obtain his birth certificate…the first step in the long process of getting a permanent roof over his head again, and a new job. George seems to have little idea as to how things have got to this stage, as if his drinking became so heavy it’s like he has woken up from a coma, and he even has to ask new friend Dixon (Ben Vereen) whether he is actually homeless at one point. A possible way forward is presented in the form of George’s daughter, played by Jena Malone, but their relationship is almost non-existent and the mending of it becomes the film’s primary focus in its later stages. Gere is very good, greeting the endless questions of social workers and other employees supposedly trying to help him with increasing perplexion as his situation worsens; he’s clearly committed to the role, and convinces as George’s mental health begins to deteriorate. Moverman’s previous film Rampart was concerned with an institution that was not functioning properly, and Time Out Of Mind similarly highlights organisational failure, albeit with an emphasis on a man affected by it, as opposed to a man who is contributing to it. The film successfully highlights how homeless people face an extremely difficult struggle to get back on their feet, partly due to the many bureaucratic barriers they must overcome, and it manages to work in briefly-uplifting notes of hope to its final act without ever softening that core message. Moverman uses snapshots of half-heard conversations across the city to suggest George’s gradual alienation from ‘mainstream’ society, and these cut in and out of the soundtrack throughout, while Gere is often filmed through windows or with out-of-focus bars or objects obscuring our view of the actor. This distant approach is possibly used to highlight the way many of us in cities exist in the same space as homeless people, yet choose to ignore them, or conveniently let them blend in with the street furniture. It’s clearly a deliberate stylistic choice, perhaps also used to give the film a rougher, edgier look, but an unfortunate side effect of the regular intrusion of blurry shapes around the edges of the frame is that the cinematography looks a little careless. There are brief appearances by the likes of Steve Buscemi, Brian d’Arcy James and Kyra Sedgwick, but this is very much Gere’s movie, and he wears it well.
Directed by: Oren Moverman.
Written by: Oren Moverman.
Starring: Richard Gere, Ben Vereen, Jena Malone, Steve Buscemi, Kyra Sedgwick.
Cinematography: Bobby Bukowski.
Editing: Alex Hall.
Running Time: 121 minutes.