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'Time Out'

'Time Out' is a French beauty

Friday, May 24, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

While it contains no nubile blond cheerleaders, drill sergeants repressing homosexual tendencies or dead men narrating their story from beyond the grave, the French film "Time Out" invites a few comparisons to "American Beauty."

 
 
'Time Out'

RATING: PG-13 for sensuality; subtitled.

PLAYERS: Aurelien Recoing, Karin Viard, Serge Livrozet.

DIRECTOR: Laurent Cantet.

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

The lead actor, Aurelien Recoing, reminds me of a balding, huskier version of Kevin Spacey. He plays a man who is trying to drop out -- from his job and maybe from everything else. Unlike its flamboyant Hollywood cousin, "Time Out," now at the Denis Theater, grounds itself in reality, the very thing its protagonist is trying to escape. So far as I'm concerned, that makes it a more satisfying movie.

Recoing's character, Vincent, has lost his job but hasn't told his wife. He pretends he is still working, to the point of spending nights away from home sleeping in his car. He whiles away the day driving (his favorite pastime), reading the newspaper or doing crossword puzzles.

He appears to truly love his wife, Muriel (Karin Viard), and his three children. But he continues the charade even after they learn he has left his job, constructing the fantasy facade of new employment while he turns to more troublesome means of raising cash.

But what is he really running from? He intimates that Muriel hasn't been well, although that may be just an excuse for not telling her about his job. His older son, Julien (Nicolas Kalsch), is studying judo and practicing the fine arts of teen angst. His father (Jean-Pierre Mangeot) seems to aggravate him without trying, as though Vincent still felt like a child under the thumb of paternal domination.

And maybe he is. The first shot of the film shows Vincent sleeping in his car, the exterior obscured by foggy windows. As morning arrives, the mist burns away and Vincent gets out of the car to call Muriel, who thinks he's on a business trip. As he talks to her, a school bus pulls up and discharges a load of kids, who mingle around him.

Father-son relationships and a man's place in the business world were the subjects of director Laurent Cantet's previous film, "Human Resources," about a man who goes to work as a manager at the factory where his father works as a machinist. It's about bosses and workers, union and management, the son advancing beyond the father only to unwittingly betray him.

"Time Out" seems to be more about a man trying to decide what's more important to him -- work, family or freedom. With Vincent, the choices increasingly become mutually exclusive. He knows he can't go on the way he was. Now he begins to question if he can continue on his present course. Cantet keeps shooting him through or behind windows, often alone -- Vincent is truly feeling isolated from the world.

The ending is deliciously ambiguous, with Vincent's voice saying one thing and his body language, his facial expression, his entire demeanor seeming to say something else. He is fighting the battle that engages most workers as they realize the limits and the cost of ambition. We can identify with his dilemma, which makes "Time Out" particularly affecting.

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