‘Time Out of Mind’ embraces stereotypes to reveal lack of audience sympathy

“Time Out of Mind” features Richard Gere as a newly homeless man, who throughout the course of the movie meets different people and tries to come to terms with his new identity and the way people perceive him.

What makes the film work as well as it does is that it chooses to embrace the stereotypes the audience has, rather than try to subvert them. Many of the characters show aspects of homelessness that we prefer not to think about, like alcoholism. Instead of relying on pity from the audience, the characters command respect.

As a result of the excellent performances from the cast, notably Richard Gere’s, it challenges our mindset astonishingly well: the audience is left to ask why it is so much harder to be compassionate in real life than to sympathize with characters in a movie, especially when they seem so similar.

Isolation is a powerful force in the movie, perhaps too much so. It is almost standard for films set in New York City to show just how much no one else cares about the main characters, and this movie is no different. Because “Time Out of Mind is built entirely around the kinds of people we choose to ignore, there is no real way to avoid this. Even so, it was done somewhat overbearingly. It is smart to show a fence between Richard Gere and the camera, for instance, because it represents the separation between the audience and the characters. Repeated in almost every scene, though, it loses the effect.

Ultimately, “Time Out of Mind” does not succeed as fully as it probably could have. Beyond Richard Gere, no one else really has a presence; floating in and out for a few scenes at a time. Of course, the movie is about his personal struggles, so the choice was probably intentional, but it still feels like a mistake to make him so completely isolated. This is magnified by the fact that some of the best scenes in the movie are with Ben Vereen, who plays another homeless man. More scenes like those could have made the movie much more interesting.

Overall, “Time Out of Mind” is less than the sum of its parts. Though it presents interesting ideas and very good performances, it ultimately can’t fill its runtime in a way that makes it feel worth viewing.