Skip to main content

Time Out of Mind: A review

The movie “Time Out of Mind,” is about a sixtysomething man, named George Hammond -- played by Richard Gere – who suffers the degradations of homelessness in New York City during a chilly early spring.

The movie was first shown in 2014 at film festivals. Over a year later, in September 2015, it appeared on the big screen briefly in New York City, and, too, in some other large cities, where it received good reviews from critics. It scored a 73% Fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Recently, the little-seen movie came out on DVD.

My interest in the film relates to how "real" it seems. Certainly, New York City isn't Sacramento, but the circumstance of being homeless in the United States surely has a lot of elements that are universal. We ought to be able to tell if the film is a caricature of homelessness or if it depicts many things that seem legit.

There is not a lot that moves the plot forward in this bare and simple film. We learn about Hammond and his habits, mental problems and the anti-social aspects of his personality as he rides the subway and wanders about the streets of New York, drinking quite a lot, and deals with the bureaucracies at shelters, soup kitchens and at a welfare-benefits office.

At the beginning of the film, it’s morning and we find George asleep in a bathtub. A building contractor makes his way into the apartment where George is, rousts him to wakefulness and tries to get him out of the apartment and out onto the street. George is reluctant to leave; he tells the contractor that he believes the woman he’s been with, Sheila, must be nearby or will be there soon.

Some of this opening scene is obscure. Do George and building contractor know each other? Is what George says about Sheila true, or just a dodge, such that he can avoid being put out into the cold? Events in the movie are played such that a viewer doesn’t have a sure-footed sense of what is going on or what George wants, ultimately, or how long he’s been homeless.

This “uncertainty” aspect is, I suspect, meant as a devise for viewers to share in George’s awkward, and oft-times drunken, mental state.

The film surely tells us a lot that is true about how homeless men are treated in New York City and about the rather shabby condition of shelters and homeless-aid facilities that have to try to help some sixty thousand homeless people where the weather can be brutal.

A big problem I have with “Time Out of Mind” is that everything bad about being homeless is depicted repeatedly in the space of the movie’s two-hour duration. There is lots of coughing and ugliness in the men’s shelters; and it’s all so bleak. [In Sacramento, for the men, at least, snoring is the worst thing in the dorms. And that, you get acclimated to.]

The bottom tiers of workers who run the homeless services are mostly assholes, with a just a few compassionate good people. [In real-life Sacramento, the bottom tiers of workers and volunteers are the good people, with homeless-services charity executives being the jerks.] The movie makes homelessness seem like a war zone rather than what it’s truly like in Sacramento (and, likely, New York, as well), a matter of drudgery and boredom.

The best all-inclusive description of Homeless World I’ve heard I got from a pal: It’s life in a fishbowl. You know how goldfish go round and round in their circular bowl? THAT’s what homelessness is like. You fall into comfortable daily habits and you find yourself wearing a path – which for me was from Loaves & Fishes in the morning to the coffee shop to Loaves for lunch to the library and then to the mission for chapel, dinner and sleep. And then you do much the same comfortable things, over and over, again and again – day after day.

Hammond's life is somewhat like that. He drinks as much as he can and he wanders the streets. There is, too, some drama in his life and a lot in the way of being unwanted and disrespected. Many/most Sacramento alcohol-consuming homeless people are much like the character George Hammond, Life is made into something dramatic. Alcohol does that: Stirs up emotions; makes life a Shakespearian tragedy. Makes smoking Raid insecticide something you might want to try.

There were some scenes in the movie that seemed particularly unreal to me. At one point, Hammond seems overcome by existential angst. He yells, "I'm homeless; I don't exist!" And then a little later he walks down the street, waving his arms, saying "I'm a cartoon, I'm a cartoon."

People vary enormously, so anything is possible, but I can't easily imagine any Sacramento homeless men I've encountered having bouts of angst quite that ridiculous.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

More Homeless Hate from Marcos Breton

There was a long spell a handful of years ago when Marcos Breton said something so fully ridiculous in one of his hateful screeds against homeless folk that it appeared to be very apparent he had been taken off the Homeless Beat by his superiors. Unhappily, after a few months, Breton was again writing disparaging columns about homeless folk

In today's Bee [3/5/17], Breton has written one of his longest columns. Online, it is titled "The price downtown Sacramento is paying for Mayor Steinberg’s homeless crusade
"
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/marcos-breton/#storylink= It goes on for days. The message, essentially, is this: Homeless people poop; they're getting a great deal of what they want from the overmuch-helpful mayor; and business people proximate to Chavez Park are made miserable by the forever-disgusting homeless that are there in great number.

O.K. Let's get into all this a bit. Except in Breton's mind, homeless pe…

The first-person dimension of homeless Sacramentans suffering from Schizophrenia

"Disabilities and dysfunction process from having been shunned and denied access to needed opportunitites and networks of support."
~ the brothers Lysaker in Schizophrenia and the Fate of the Self What is schizophrenia? How many are homeless Sacramentans?

Perhaps 15% of the Sacramento homeless population suffers from schizophrenia. The percentage is difficult to determine for many reasons that branch from both the fuzzy definition of the malady and that many people within the homeless community who have the illness (1) are in denial and are undiagnosed and (2) have the illness as a diagnosis only – the disability can be faked by people who are successful claimants of social security and other benefits.

What is schizophrenia? One webspace gives us this definition: The most chronic and disabling of the severe mental disorders. Typically develops in the late teens or early twenties. The overt symptoms are hallucinations (hearing voices, seeing visions), delusions (false beliefs ab…

Homelessness and Remembrance

This is a follow-up on the matter of remembering homeless people who have died and the Wall that Libby Fernandez wants to build in remembrance of the deceased. [See earlier blogpost "Tell Libby NOT to build her wall."]

This blogpost is prompted by a Philosophy Bites podcast released in the last couple days -- titled "Cécile Fabre on Remembrance." Fabre's take on why we honor or grieve for certain individuals or certain collections of individuals is not greatly helpful -- since his focus is mainly one of fallen war heroes and war casualties -- but it does open up the issue of why should there be a remembrance effort for deceased homeless people at all. Who is served by it? And has the effort been perverted by the avarice of charities in their insatiable drive for donations.

It is, for starters, a curious thing for "homeless people" to be a collective that is honored. I write that NOT because I don't want the best for homeless people. But, homelessn…