Richard Gere gives a committed performance in this essential portrait of homelessness in New York. You could write off his grizzled turn as an actor’s stunt, but that would be overly dismissive of an indie movie on a serious, socially-conscious mission.
Working from a near-plotless scenario, director Oren Moverman captures Gere in the shallow mid-distance as real people swarm past him. (Much of the movie was shot guerrilla-style, with no one apparently recognising the Hollywood star.) Gere uses the opportunity to strip himself entirely of artifice, and it’s a marvel of anti-technique. As we come to learn (very little) about George, as he’s called, we fixate on only what can be seen and heard: some scary-looking head wounds, a tendency to quietly mumble to himself, restless sleep patterns. He eventually comes into contact with another street person (Ben Vereen), who is as talkative as George is reserved. Thrown together, they share some misadventures in a noisy homeless shelter, where bureaucracy and racial unease fill in the nightmarish picture.
Amazingly, that’s enough for a captivating film, one that requires us to recalibrate our expectations. Still, it’s a slight letdown when Moverman throws in an estranged daughter (Jena Malone), tending bar and scowling whenever George invades her space.