“Time Out of Mind”: Homelessness, Mental Illness, and Identity

Many of the homeless in our country are mentally ill and/or alcoholic and currently unemployed. In Oren Moverman‘s Time Out of Mind, George (Richard Gere), a former business executive, fits this profile.

Matt Zoller Seitz, rogerebert.com, sets up the film, titled after Bob Dylan‘s 30th studio album:

The movie starts with Gere’s character, George, being surprised while squatting in an apartment. The building manager (Steve Buscemi, one of many name actors who play one or two scenes in the film) reluctantly tells him that he can’t stay there anymore. George says he’s waiting on ‘her.’ In time we understand that he’s talking about his daughter Maggie (Jena Malone), who kicked George out, again for unspecified reasons, though probably for drinking (in one brief sequence where George comes into a bit of cash, he spends it on a six pack and drinks it all at once). Eventually he ends up at a bleak, racially tense homeless shelter where he’s befriended by Dixon (Ben Vereen), a former jazz man who has a dozen synonyms for every noun and speaks in the relentlessly upbeat cadences of a scam artist even when he’s being entirely sincere. He has more experiences, and while we feel sure that the movie is edging toward a destination, we can tell by the tone and style that it’s not going to be a typically upbeat one, with lessons learned and problems solved.

About Time Out of Mind‘s style, A.O. Scott, New York Times, states, “This movie’s best and truest quality may be its wandering, episodic rhythm, which is intriguing in its own right and reflects the experience of the main character.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “Time Out of Mind is not sentimental or overly plotted. It’s just a sober, emotionally direct film of subtle observance on the road to Hell. It has an overlapping sound that makes you feel like you’re in the shadows, on the rooftops, and shuffling through the halls of the hospital wards with George.”

You can see the Time Out of Mind trailer below:

A Portrait of George

Justin Chang, Variety: “In a manner that will seem uncannily accurate to anyone who’s spent time interacting with the homeless, George has a habit of either repeating himself absent-mindedly or seeming not to understand the simplest questions — a tic that doesn’t suggest memory loss so much as a curious form of evasion and denial.”

Rex Reed, New York Observer: “George suffers through endless questionnaires for psychological evaluation. The only people he meets are afflicted, addicted or brain-damaged. Everything is lost—social security cards, birth certificate, photo I.D.s, memory, family, business associates, self-respect. What’s left forms a thin line between insanity and non-existence.”

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