Ennui and discontent aren't exactly propelling forces, which is why Time Out falls a bit flat. It isn't that the film is inadequate -- far from it. Like a long stretch of unemployment, too much dissatisfaction can lose its charm.
As part of his lie, Vincent tells his wife Muriel (Karin Viard) that his new job with the United Nations will require stretches of time in Switzerland. While Vincent spends his time aimlessly driving, he visits old friends and convinces them to make huge investments that he pockets instead. He also takes a sizable check from his father (Jean-Pierre Mangeot) under the guise of finding an apartment.
Recoing is perfectly cast in the lead role. With his soft features and receding hairline, he looks like any working class joe. Even better, Recoing delivers a passionate and heartbreaking performance, which is on full display when he tells Viard that he can't take his new "job" anymore. We realize how badly he's trapped. Even when he reveals the truth, he can't set himself free.
Cantet also peppers his film with little moments that show Vincent's situation with painful clarity. As he counts his ill-gotten gains, Vincent sees a young couple, a reminder of why he's on this latest path. A security guard politely tells him to leave an office building's lobby, unless he has a reason for being there. We keep seeing him asleep in his car; the film opens with that scene. We even hear Vincent reading material about the job he doesn't have, so he can better convince his friends and family.
The movie also has some welcome comic relief in the form of a shady businessman (Serge Livrozet) who sees through Vincent's investment scheme, but still offers him a job transporting overseas merchandise. The character is a humorous contradiction: He looks like a gangster, but has the temperament and goodwill of a saint. Vincent also gets himself an unlikely mentor, which leads to a funny scene when the boss and employee -- both pretending to work at the UN -- have dinner with Vincent's family.
Cantet makes a few missteps, including not fleshing out Vincent's conflict with his teenage son (Nicolas Kalsch). Also, scenes of Vincent talking to his friends about his investment plans are drawn out and somewhat out of place, especially when Cantet focuses the most screen time on one young couple willing to invest all of their savings. The most pressing problem is the film's length (132 minutes). Time Out would have been phenomenal had Cantet been willing to trim some unneeded material here and there. My guess is that he wanted the audience to get the full effect of Vincent's aimlessness and desperation. It's just not necessary, and it takes the sting out of the movie's sharp message.
According to the folks at the New York Film Festival (where this was screened), Cantet's movie doesn't have a distributor, but I'm sure it will find one. This is an intelligent and sobering look at a person's self worth, and the measures he or she will take to restore it. Someone has to see the movie's value. Let's hope that happens soon.
Aka L'Emploi du temps.
Through the looking glass.
Run time: 134 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 14th November 2001
Distributed by: ThinkFilm
Production compaines: Paramount Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 79 Rotten: 3
IMDB: 7.4 / 10
Director: Laurent Cantet
Producer: Caroline Benjo
Starring: Arsenio Hall as Himself, Magic Johnson as Himself, Tom Cruise as Himself, Paula Abdul as Herself, Kirstie Alley as Herself, Mayim Bialik as Herself, Johnny Gill as Himself, Kadeem Hardison as Himself, Neil Patrick Harris as Himself, Luke Perry as Himself, Paul Rodríguez as Himself, Pauly Shore as Himself, Sinbad as Himself, Malcolm-Jamal Warner as Himself, Jaleel White as Himself
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