wed 17/07/2024

Time Out of Mind | reviews, news & interviews

Time Out of Mind

Time Out of Mind

Richard Gere is quietly revelatory as one of New York's homeless

Invisible: Richard Gere and Ben Vereen in `Time Out of Mind'

Richard Gere is a quiet knockout in Time Out of Mind, the Oren Moverman film that has for some reason remained as below the radar as its invisible (to the rest of society anyway) central character. Why wasn't this performance in the Oscar mix for the seasonal gongs just gone?

He'd have had my vote, that's for sure, though it's doubtless part of its Israeli-American writer-director's game plan that this star turn remain unshowy and self-effacing in keeping with the sorrowful terrain that it traverses with unforced ease.

Not that there's anything easy about the life Gere's George Hammond is currently living, his past as a family man all but obliterated by a daily existence spent trawling the streets and shelters of New York, pausing here and there for a drink or an al fresco shag with Kyra Sedgwick (pictured below right), playing a fellow denizen of the sorts of existences lived on the margins that we see around us every day. (For starters, consider the nocturnal take-overs of the entrances to most West End theatres that take place as soon sometimes before the last cast and crew member have left the building.)

How did George tumble so far? Moverman's film doesn't belabour a back story, granting what information there is to be gleaned from the tense encounters that George has with his prickly bartender-daughter (Jena Malone, pictured below with Gere), who offers an on-the-house beer but not much else by way of filial comfort.

Indeed, George's only compatriot of sorts or ally is Dixon (a vibrant performance from onetime Broadway regular Ben Vereen), whom he befriends at one of several shelters and who proves as nonstop talkative as George is indrawn. The two men provide a neatly complementary study in battling daily against life's abrasions on the one hand and retreating from them on the other: George, tellingly, wants little more than to sleep. 

George, we notice, rarely raises his voice, a fact that exists in marked contrast to the metropolis amongst whose inhabitants he moves with near-invisibility - a condition that may be preferable to being taunted by passing yobs, as we see at the start, or being forever moved on by people in authority. New York itself, meanwhile, continues in all its impersonal clamour, the aural jangle of the city a pitiless soundscape that makes respite doubly difficult. (The Statue of Liberty does ironic duty - maybe too obviously so - in the background of one shot.) 

Much has been made in the press of Gere himself taking to the streets during filming to experience first-hand his character's state of being, his beanie concealing the silver fox's actual identity from all but the most keen-eyed observers. But what really impresses about the actor's work here is its total refusal to indulge in showboating. It could be that Gere's notable absence from any kind of awards roll call could have had something to do with the absence within Moverman's script of deliberate Oscar-bait moments. Time Out of Mind's method, by contrast, is to catch at experience glancingly, unobtrusively, allowing the accretion of detail to count for more than the grand gesture: one can't help but notice, for instance, George's habitual blinking, as if closing his eyes might allow him access to a different reality - one that perhaps doesn't include a mouse, for instance, scampering across his breakfast tray at the shelter. 

Nor is it possible, as Gere knows better than anyone, to separate out this performance from the history we bring to this actor, George functioning in some ways as the flip side to the smoothies he has played in Pretty Woman or Chicago - or the power player from Arbitrage newly consigned to skid row, though whether for societal or personal reasons, or both, we never fully know. You smile and nod when a female official whom George comes across refers to him in passing as "handsome" even as the actor barely registers the remark. Instead, he takes the compliment as just another moment in just another day before it's time yet again to pack up and move on: one of society's dispossessed in permanent search of rest.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for Time Out of Mind 



What really impresses about Gere's work here is its total refusal to indulge in showboating


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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