'Time Out of Mind' has a forlorn mood that is evocative when it's not wearying

'Mind' stars Richard Gere as a homeless man who wanders through the detritus of New York City. Actor Ben Vereen is best in the film, creating a full-bodied character using the sparest of means.

Allison Rosa/IFC Films/AP
'Time Out of Mind' stars Richard Gere.

In “Time Out of Mind,” Richard Gere, best known for his sexy suavity, gets to fulfill a long-held dream of playing a homeless man. What’s next: Hamlet?

Written and directed by Oren Moverman, the film is a wayward attempt to make us look at the homeless in a more direct and piercing way than we are accustomed to in the movies – or in real life. Gere’s George, first seen sleeping it off in the bathtub of an abandoned building, is intended as a kind of Everyman wandering through the detritus of New York City in search of solace. He speaks very little, and his memory is shot. His nights are spent in a shelter, where he takes up with a fellow dweller (Ben Vereen) who is as jabbery as George is mute. It develops that George has an estranged daughter (Jena Malone), with whom he shares a few spiky scenes. But that’s about it for plot.

Nothing, in any conventional sense, “happens” in this film. Moverman and his cinematographer, Bobby Bukowski, often employ long telephoto lenses to shoot the action, making the characters, usually observed behind reflecting surfaces, seem isolated and insignificant. The soundtrack, a mix of overheard gabble, is similarly distancing. 

The film casts a forlorn mood that is evocative when it isn’t wearying. Gere is believable enough, and so are his costars (Steve Buscemi and Kyra Sedgwick turn up in small roles). Vereen is best – he creates a full-bodied character using the sparest of means. It’s a magnificent cameo. Grade: B- (Rated PG for mild action and some rude humor.)

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