‘Time Out of Mind’ is worth the angst

Bleak and depressing, “Time Out of Mind” chronicles a homeless man’s journey through the streets of New York.

It’s tough to sit through, but features a cast that is worth watching.

A nearly unrecognizable Richard Gere (“Chicago”) roams the streets seeking a place to sleep and perhaps some spare change for a meal — or a bottle of booze. His character George once had a job, a wife, a child, and a home, and all that went away as he unraveled in a downward spiral.

He is accepted at a men’s shelter, and through Dixon (Ben Vereen), an ex-jazzman, he learns to navigate the bureaucracy and the routine. He attempts to reconnect with his estranged daughter Maggie (Jena Malone), but the wounds are deep and not healed.

Director Oren Moverman (“The Messenger”) consciously keeps his camera at a distance. He attempts to strip George and others of humanity. Helpers — shelters, hospitals, people on the streets — are shown in a kind way, in contrast to others lacking compassion.

But the humiliating degradation of not being able to support oneself or have a place to call home is emphasized as Moverman wants to evoke dignity.

Trying to be a wake-up call in a world that ignores and looks away from the plight of down-and-out folks, Moverman’s intentions are noble. Yet, the film has a cold feel to it, and perhaps that is on purpose.

Gere hasn’t been this raw in a performance since his realistic turn as a manic-depressive in “Mr. Jones” (1993). Vereen (“Roots”) excels as a streetwise guy who can easily get on people’s nerves. Malone, who worked with Moverman in the outstanding “The Messenger,” is heartbreaking as the daughter George abandoned after his wife died of breast cancer.

An unglamorous Kyra Sedgwick is a tough street woman Gere connects with briefly.

Cinematographer Bobby Bukowski has captured the desolate nature of the story and the busy streets of Manhattan in a way that deepens it.

“Time Out of Mind” is a stark reminder of the widening gap between the Haves and Have Nots, and its veteran cast makes it haunting.

3 stars out of 4

  • Director: Oren Moverman
  • Starring: Richard Gere, Jena Malone, Ben Vereen, Kyra Sedgwick, and Steve Buscemi.
  • Rated: Not yet rated.
  • Length: 2:00