Case Number 02843: Small Claims Court


Miramax // 2001 // 128 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Michael Rankins (Retired) // May 1st, 2003

The Charge

Now he must decide between his life of lies...or the truth.

The Case

Like Gerald, the character played by Tom Wilkinson in The Full Monty, Vincent (veteran French stage actor Aurélien Recoing, who bears an unsettling resemblance to American comedian/actor Larry Miller) is hiding a secret from his family: the fact that he has been fired from his white-collar job.

Vincent spends his days driving aimlessly about the French interior, stopping on occasion to read his newspaper in a park or to drink coffee in a roadside cafe. During cold winter nights, he sleeps in his car in parking lots. He chats glibly with his loving wife Muriel (the quietly arresting Karin Viard) via cell phone, describing to her in detail meetings he never attends with clients he never sees, regarding high-ticket business deals that don't really exist. Vincent drops tantalizing hints to Muriel and his wealthy parents about a lucrative new career he's pursuing as an international finance consultant with the United Nations office in Geneva, but this too is a fabrication.

On this gossamer hook, director and co-screenwriter Laurent Cantet hangs an eerie and emotionally powerful journey into the abyss with a man both too proud and too insecure to admit the reality of his situation. The lengths to which Vincent goes to maintain his charade, and the consequences arising therefrom, form the framework of Cantet's moving commentary on the relationship between work and masculine self-image. For a detailed analysis of Time Out, its themes, and its execution, check out Judge Barrie Maxwell's fine review of the previous Seville Pictures DVD release.

Buena Vista Home Entertainment has issued a fresh DVD presentation of Time Out under Disney's independent-films imprint, Miramax. Like the earlier Canadian production, this new disc is a relatively barebones affair, but offers a quality anamorphic transfer that displays the movie in effective fashion. The film's cool, muted color palette -- designed to reflect and draw us into Vincent's alienation -- shows through naturally, and the transfer offers a clean, nicely cinematic look. Many scenes take place in low light conditions, but contrast holds up and shadow depth is crisp most of the time. There's a fair bit of graininess in the print, but I believe this was most likely intentional on the director's part. The original French soundtrack is offered in both the original stereo separation and a remixed Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix that opens the soundfield slightly -- hardly necessary for a low-key drama with minimal dialogue and long quiet passages, but nevertheless welcome.

As with the Seville release, Miramax adds only a handful of trailers -- in typical Disney style, these must be waded through before the main menu appears. The lineup features full-frame previews of five Miramax international offerings (Tadpole, The Importance of Being Earnest, Baran, Behind the Sun, and Strictly Ballroom) plus an anamorphic trailers for Time Out itself.

A gently-paced, slow-building film that doesn't play out in the bombastic, bloodthirsty manner an American film of similar subject likely would (see Falling Down for an example), Time Out is well worth a look by fans of psychological drama and character study. Vincent's self-imposed plight is both immersive and compelling. I was captivated by the fascinating sequence in which Vincent, Zelig-like, blends into a group of business-suited paper-pushers to sneak into the office complex where he allegedly works -- the camera follows as Vincent wanders the halls, eavesdropping on policy discussions and scanning annual reports like a corporate spy, soaking up by osmosis the information he needs to make his lies ring with greater authenticity. Having departed a job or two in my storied career, more than one moment of Vincent's mid-life crisis hit this Judge chillingly close to the heart.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 84

Perp Profile
Studio: Miramax
Video Formats:
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* English

Running Time: 128 Minutes
Release Year: 2001
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Theatrical Trailer
* Bonus Trailers

* IMDb