dir. Oren Moverman
starring: Richard Gere, Jena Malone
running time: 120 minutes
I’m not entirely sure what i was expecting with Time Out of Mind. Oren Movermen is not a director whose works I’ve ever enjoyed, though it is apparent that he knows how to draw out good performances out of his cast. Both The Messenger and Rampart were too cold and disconnected for me to have any sort of emotional connection to it, despite the former dealing for the most part with people being told that their family member(s) have been killed in a war. Perhaps it was Richard Gere taking on a much more complex character than he usually does that appealed to me? Or perhaps it was the fact that Moverman’s sensibility and style serve this type of subject matter really well? Unfortunately, I walked out of Time Out of Mind feeling exactly the same way I did with Moverman’s other movies, but as time passes by, it grows exponentially for me.
In short, Richard Gere plays George, a homeless alcoholic who has very little memory of how he got to where he is, nor does he know when it happened. We get very little insight information about his background and as a result are left with an observational cinema style of storytelling that weaves together clues about his mental state and past. George goes through the motions, from struggling to find warm shelter to rummaging through garbage to find food, all while slowly making an attempt to get his identity back and reconnect with his daughter.
In what is both the film’s strength and weakness, Time Out of Mind does not have a cohesive story. Instead, it relies heavily on the central performance, which is brilliant, but because of how little George speaks, we’re left with a lot of empty air. Consequently, it makes the entire thing feel rather slight and forgettable. On the other hand, photographing the film from a ‘fly on the wall’ perspective, Time Out of Mind becomes a reflection of humanity and life itself.
The sheer power George as a character leaves ingrained in one’s mind is staggering and although he’s difficult to relate to (another flaw with all of Moverman’s movies), it gives us an insight into a part of life we always ignore. The biggest takeaway is how difficult it actually is for homeless people. Many of them end up that way with little to no knowledge of how it happened (in the case of George, he seems to have had some sort of head injury that caused brain damage), and trying to revert back to your old life can prove to be virtually impossible. For giving me an entirely new outlook about a societal issue I seldom paid any attention to, Time Out of Mind excels.
But it’s very difficult for me to entirely forgive Moverman for not injecting the movie with any sort of relatedness or humor. The closest we get to it is with George’s daughter Maggie (Jena Malone), but she’s only in about three short scenes. By the end of the film, there’s a lot of heart and the payoff is indeed satisfying (plus the last shot is perfect) but that’s not enough to forgive everything that comes before. It is most definitely Gere’s best performance (though I can’t say I know too many good ones) and the sound (though often intrusive) works really well in creating a ‘person in a crowd’ feeling that works in tandem with the major theme of the movie.
Overall, Time Out of Mind is interesting and does leave a strong impression in the mind but quite a lot of it has very little meat on the bone. Feeling less like a well thought out story (and that doesn’t surprise me seeing as how Moverman wrote the screenplay for this and Love & Mercy — a much superior script — at the same time) and a lot more like moments in time, this will work for those who want something visceral but may be a dud for those who like complexity and depth.
dir. Bill Pohlad
starring: Paul Dano, John Cusack, Elizabeth Banks & Paul Giamatti
running time: 120 minutes
When you’re a producer on such movies as Brokeback Mountain, Into the Wild, Food Inc, The Tree of Life and 12 Years a Slave you get quite a bit of clout to your name. Bill Pohlad’s movies have raked in an impressive 23 Oscar nominations and 6 wins over a period of 8 years. In short, the guy must be doing something right. A lot of big names in the industry automatically assume that because they’ve had experience working alongside competent directors, they have what it takes to direct a full length feature. Trouble is, a lot of them experience delusions of grandeur and end up having their ‘passion’ projects fall flat on their ass. Thankfully, Pohlad definitely has what it takes to become a name in the director’s chair. His keen eye for detail, impressive showmanship of all avenues of filimmaking and a tremendous ability to draw out great performances out of his cast, is enough to cement him as a force to be reckoned with.
Love & Mercy is the story of Brian Wilson, the schizophrenic Beach Boys songwriter who had a troubled life dealing with mental illness, a negligent father and an opportunistic therapist. Paul Dano takes on the role of young Brian, portraying him as the free-spirited musical prodigy who slowly, but surely, descends into madness. John Cusack takes on the slightly more complicated task of channeling that tail end of the mental degradation and infusing it with warmth, heart and child-like longing. Almost equally impressive are Elizabeth Banks as older Brian’s love interest (and current wife) Melinda Ledbetter and Paul Giamatti as the conniving, indignant Dr. Eugene Landy. Brian’s early years focus on his — and his band mates’ — success with pop and progresses through the years with Brian’s experimentation with both psychedelic drugs and the resulting music.
What works best for Love & Mercy is just how vastly detailed everything is. The biggest treat is seeing the recreation of some of the most influential and popular songs of the ’60s being shown from inception to completion. Pohlad makes sure to always keep the audience informed about the history of both Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys without having to spill out every minute detail. The way in which Oren Moverman approaches the script is both daring and fitting, allowing glimpses into Wilson’s psyche as well as his relationships with those around him, in a subtle way that mirrors his older state of mind.
A movie like this could easily cross the line into generic biopic but thankfully it always stays grounded with a heavy amount to say about art, mental disease and even the state of our music industry today. Pohlad also makes sure to constantly infuse a lot of heart into the movie, allowing a script that could have turned out to be cold and disconnected (which all of Moverman’s movies tend to be) to flourish into something rewarding by the end. Most of us know how the story turns out but the beauty in Love & Mercy is seeing how that happens. Elizabeth Banks steals the show for a lot of the running time, showcasing her talent as a dramatic actress while simultaneously acting as our own frustrated surrogate against the maniacal therapist Wilson spent a lot of his adult life with.
Unfortunately, Love & Mercy isn’t without its minor flaws. The pacing is slightly jumbled and the whole thing could have been handled without the repetitiveness and slight cliches. But by the end it’s difficult to hold that against the movie. There’s just so much to admire and it’s actually quite entertaining when it doesn’t delve head first into dark territory. In a time where political and social commentary is all too overused, it’s refreshing to see a biopic handled so well without having to resort to trying to feel overly important.