Time Out of Mind (IFC Films, NR)

Time of Mind 75Because of this unusual tone and structure, Time Out of Mind is a film likely to be just want you need if you’re in a contemplative mood.

 

 

 

 

Time of Mind 500

Screenwriter and sometimes director Oren Moverman first came to my attention in 1999, when he had co-screenwriter credit on Alison Maclean’s adaptation of Denis Johnson’s book of short stories Jesus’ Son. That film is quite a screenwriting feat—imagine adapting an entire book of short stories (albeit one where the stories are all told from what sounds like the same narrative voice) into a cogent film. Further complicating this is that Jesus’ Son is one of my very favorite books of all time, so the fact that I don’t automatically hate the movie also feels like something of a miracle. Elsewhere, Moverman has been doing other interesting work, particularly in the music biopic field, with credits on stuff like I’m Not There (the non-linear Bob Dylan movie, which in part stars Richard Gere) and Love & Mercy (the non-linear Brian Wilson movie). But for me, his real masterpiece so far is 2009’s The Messenger, his first film as director (and he again co-wrote the screenplay) a too-overlooked gem that is beautifully written and directed, and most especially incredibly acted. Interesting that a screenwriter making his first leap into directing could turn in as near-perfect work as that film.

Now we have Time Out of Mind to add to Moverman’s oeuvre, it being his first film in the director’s chair since 2011’s Rampart, which film I found not bad but disappointing. Time Out of Mind is something of a different beast from the work Moverman has done in the past, though—it focuses on a not-terribly-endearing homeless man, and at once shows his world through his experiences but also from an outsider’s gaze, as if we were actually watching him on the streets, and not in a movie.

The homeless man, George (Gere, here reteaming with Moverman), is basically nice and generally down on his luck, and we find him in the beginning of the film sleeping in the bathtub of an abandoned apartment, which he is soon after kicked out of. This is the first of many instances where it sounds like the film is episodic in description (here he’s getting kicked out of a hospital waiting room; here’s he’s drinking in an ATM stall), but in experience feel more like a mood piece.

Time Out of Mind livens up some with the introduction of the closest thing to a friend of George’s, Dixon (Ben Vereen), a talkative fellow whom George meets in a shelter. But being livened up is not something this film seems to be going for most of the time—a whole lot of it is given over to simple observation of George, in a way that you rarely (if ever) see of any character in any movie. It’s true that most of our collective experiences with homeless people are through passive observation, and that’s how a lot of this film plays—for example, early in the film we have a scene where we watch George through a window for a while, but he’s not doing anything memorable so much as simply going about his day, and there’s an incongruous Belle & Sebastian track (“A Summer Wasting”) on the soundtrack. You might find yourself wondering why this poppy song is playing as we watch a homeless man do his business, until you realize that the song is playing in the café the camera is stationed in, and through whose window we’re watching George.

Because of this unusual tone and structure, Time Out of Mind is a film likely to be just want you need if you’re in a contemplative mood, or seem terribly boring and monotonous if you’re full of energy or anxiety. Regardless, it’s an interesting piece, and an impressive new direction for Moverman to take. | Pete Timmermann

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