With "Time Out of Mind," director Oren Moverman ("The Messenger," "Rampart") has made a movie that deserves respect and admiration, if not outright enthusiasm.
The grizzled Richard Gere certainly gives his all as the homeless George, a man adrift in many ways, and one who isn't even sure anymore who exactly he is, or was. The problem is, neither do we, since George wanders from perfectly lucid and calculating drifter to delusional demi-lunatic.
While this may be a perfectly accurate depiction of a certain kind of homeless person, it doesn't help the viewer to engage with the character nor forget that he's being played by Gere, for whom "Time Out of Mind" was apparently a longtime passion project. George is living in a kind of mental twilight, divorced from the Manhattan around him, and what happens around him is made profoundly sad and disturbing largely through the use of sound. He may be physically present, but a world of cellphone calls and traffic and unconnected conversations go on around George as if he weren't even there -- and, of course, for those people around him he isn't. Movermen also shoots Gere about half the time -- or rather, half of Gere: The actor is seldom completely in view, being obscured by lampposts and door jambs and, in the shot by which he's introduced, only half seen in the bathtub where he's awakened by a miserable building manager played by Steve Buscemi.
Ben Vereen gives a marvelous performance as Dixon, a man George meets in a shelter and who is afflicted with an inability to ever shut up (George, after listening for days, looks like his head is going to explode). Kyra Sedgwick is a homeless woman whom George mistakes for someone else (we don't understand why, which is a problem) and Jena Malone is George's estranged daughter, occupying a corner of the story that's never fully developed.
But "Time Out of Mind" belongs to Gere, and he gives a valiant performance, albeit in a movie that's more socially significant than it is totally convincing.