Despite a host of very good work on his resume to date, Richard Gere gives what I feel to be the performance of his career so far in Oren Moverman‘s rather simple yet incredibly powerful film Time Out of Mind. What begins as a character study of a homeless man becomes, by the time the end credits role, a reflection of us as a society, of the need and yearning to be acknowledged/heard in this world. Gere may be playing a man quite down on his luck with specific food and shelter problems in New York City, but the more emotional issues at hand are universal. Credit goes to Moverman and Gere for achieving this profound statement with a minimum of dramatic artifice. Kudos also to Moverman for how he integrates the city, making it arguably a bigger character than the one Gere is playing. It’s a moving film, one that is almost impossible to forget, and one that was among the best to screen last year at the New York Film Festival. Now in 2015, it’s hitting theaters and is one of the better movies to come out this year so far. It’s not always easy to watch, much like Heaven Knows What was a little earlier on this year, but it’s well worth it. Especially for Gere’s outstanding central performance (which is worthy of awards consideration), Time Out of Mind is a must see bit of cinema for anyone who loves a captivating turn by a respected veteran actor. You’ll feast on the performance that Moverman got out of Gere.
When we first meet George Hammond (Gere), he’s being kicked out of the empty apartment he’s been squatting in for some time. Reduced to sleeping in a bathtub, George is, in his own words, “in between things”. When he’s back on the streets, he begs for change to buy booze and looks for a bench to sleep on, having lost what little he had in that abandoned apartment. That’s his routine, though from time to time he also follows his daughter Maggie (Jena Malone) around, a bartender who wants very little to do with him and usually doesn’t even know that he’s there. Eventually he gets put into a men’s shelter, where he finds that not having any forms of I.D. sends him down the rabbit hole of bureaucracy, despite good intentions from just about everyone involved. He has a friend in Dixon (Ben Vereen), but that’s of small comfort to George. From there, it just continues on as a daily struggle to survive, all while the rest of the world ignores him. Time Out of Mind depicts this lifestyle almost clinically, never avoiding the harsh reality of someone stuck in this particular situation.
Stripped of anything and everything resembling a creature comfort, Richard Gere disappears into this part. It’s a hauntingly simple performance, one devoid of artifice. There’s never a moment where you look at Gere as an actor, solely as this homeless man named George. It’s a remarkable performance, to say the least. Gere spends a lot of time in filth, but it’s never a gimmick. He’s capably supported by Jena Malone in one of the better roles she’s gotten of late. I always enjoy her work and this is no exception. Malone isn’t in the film much, but she leaves a mark when she is. The same goes for Ben Vereen, who’s a welcome presence in any movie. Vereen is the main person to interact with Gere, so they share some of the flick’s most interesting moments. The supporting cast here includes cameos from Steve Buscemi, Kyra Sedgwick, and Michael K. Williams, among others, but Gere is the one you’re going to have your heart broken by. There was talk last year of a Best Actor campaign for Gere, and while the film opted for the 2015 release date and presumably a just as packed Actor slate, Gere still deserves some real consideration. He’s just terrific.
Oren Moverman’s writing keeps things very simple and spare (which is when he’s at his best, like in The Messenger), while the direction is the best he’s ever put forward in an already strong career. The camera is always behind glass or in a different building, observing Gere as we actually would in society…from a distance and removed from having to deal with him. The full effect of it hits you towards the end, likely to bring some folks to tears. Overman’s script is co-written by Jeffrey Caine, and while it’s not nearly as documentary like as the directing is at times, it’s still strong stuff. Moverman and cinematographer Bobby Bukowski are the stars behind the camera though, no doubt about that. Even when Moverman is more theatrical and less realistic in his work (like Rampart), he’s still fascinating to watch in action. This simple outing just further shows off his best skill sets.
I’m not sure if Time Out of Mind will ultimately be rewarded for waiting to come out this year instead of in late 2014 for awards consideration, but regardless of the year in question it’s worthy of Academy members taking a close look at it. Gere and Moverman put forward work that deserves to be remembered in one way or another. I know that I’ll be hard pressed to ever forget it. Time Out of Mind is one of the very best things I saw at NYFF last year and the same goes for so far this year.
–Thoughts? Discuss in the comments!