In the new independent drama Time Out Of Mind, out Sept. 11, Richard Gere dives into a role that's far removed from the regular leading man fare. As a homeless man named George, Gere (who also produced the film) takes audiences on a dismal tour of the life of a New Yorker on the streets. Jena Malone plays his estranged daughter, a bartender with whom he tries to reestablish ties. The movie was filmed on location in the city; hundreds (if not thousands) of locals and out-of-towners went about their day, unaware that a Golden Globe winner was one of the impoverished individuals in the peripheral of their lives. Paparazzi even caught a French tourist kindly offering an in-character Gere some leftover pizza. Surely the setting and circumstances helped the actor turn in an authentic performance. But is Time Out Of Mind based on a true story?
"No" seems to be an insufficient answer to that question, although the film is not based on a specific individual's experience. Writer/Director Oren Moverman (The Messenger, I'm Not There) based his screenplay for the movie on an original script by Jeffrey Caine (The Constant Gardener, Goldeneye), and Caine retains a writing credit. Gere told Entertainment Weekly that he'd optioned the script himself and brought Moverman on to amp up the realism and tamp down the "movie of the week" quality that threatened the story's potential. With that director at the helm, the shoot became an exercise in capturing the daily interactions or avoided interactions that people would rather forget as soon as they're safely home. Gere was filmed panhandling for extended periods of time. ("45 minutes of me on the street and no one paid any attention," the actor told EW of the first day.) The crew also placed hidden cameras that captured visual of the actors but recorded audio at their placement. That way, they were able to catch real, verbal reactions from passersby.
The result, according to The New York Times, is a final product whose "best and truest quality may be its wandering, episodic rhythm, which is intriguing in its own right and reflects the experience of the main character." So though the character that Gere is playing is patently fictional, the goal of the film is to shed light on an epidemic that hides in plain sight. In this featurette for the film, Gere discusses the responsibility he feels with this particular project:
I've been working with a group in New York called the Coalition For The Homeless. I've been in the shelters. I've spent some time on the streets. So I felt an affinity and a comfort level with their stories. And felt I wanted to tell the stories of my friends on the streets...We had an intention and a moral necessity, I think, and a responsibility to use it to help people on the street. People would be looking at this as a way to galvanize support for helping people on the streets.
On its official microsite for the film, IFC offers links to several organizations committed to combating poverty and homelessness, including Coalition For The Homeless, the one closest to the star's heart; Habitat For Humanity; and Project Home. Audiences will certainly find this movie uncomfortable to watch, but that reaction will help serve Time Out Of Mind's purpose of being a call to immediate action.
Image: IFC Films