Time Out of Mind is about a reconciliation between a homeless man and his estranged daughter. The homeless man, George, (Richard Gere) has been a bum loafing around the last ten years absent from his daughter’s life. After a building superintendent (Steve Buscemi) kicks him out of an empty apartment — and later, the same building — where George squatted, he’s left in the cold, so he makes a desperate reach to see his daughter, Maggie (Jena Malone), a young bartender.
The film is a very slow exercise about regret and self-pity and is intentionally austere to focus your attention on the characters, but you lose it at times because there are too many scenes of Gere just bumming it up— loitering around Maggie’s bar, drinking beer, drinking coffee, or just standing doing nothing. I should’ve taken an Adderall for the first half an hour. The film could’ve been that much less and would’ve saved a few hundred thousand dollars and my pacing back and forth waiting for it to hurry the f*ck up.
Although being a thoroughly stripped-down plot, the film’s focus on George more than compensates for its minimalism. The beats in George’s character development are so seamless they’re almost unapparent and is just the right amount of movement to give the film its intended realism.
The ADD wears off when George meets Dixon, an older homeless man at a homeless shelter, played by Ben Vereen who completely inhabited the character. Dixon is the kind that doesn’t shut up because he wants companionship and finds it in George, who doesn’t open his mouth unless he needs something. The two pair up and wander the streets and other shelters like an old couple. But Dixon’s brain to mouth twitch, although innocently, aggravates all those around him especially at the shelter.
Despite Dixon being “reduced” as he calls it, over the years he’s found clarity, which becomes too much for George to handle as he begins to question his own life. Many scenes with George were shot with the audience on the outside looking in at him or at him, but his visage is frequently obscured. Reflections on windows created a sense of layering overlapping George, as signs and walls hid him from complete view almost utterly superimposing him, mirroring his inner reflections and feelings of invisibility. Sound engineering completed the motif, creating another reflective texture. New York City’s cacophony is layered over the film like shifting and conflicting voices, but not nearly as loud as those in George’s psyche.
CONCLUSION: If you’re really patient, ‘Time out of Mind’ is a character piece worth studying but not a film for the plot junkie.