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With: Aurélien Recoing, Karin Viard, Serge Livrozet, Jean-Pierre Mangeot, Monique Mangeot, Nicolas Kalsch, Marie Cantet, Felix Cantet
Written by: Robin Campillo, Laurent Cantet
Directed by: Laurent Cantet
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sensuality
Language: French, with English subtitles
Running Time: 134
Date: 09/04/2001

Time Out (2001)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Small 'Time'

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

In 2000, Laurent Cantet's Human Resources opened as part of the Shooting Gallery series and stunned reviewers with its frank look at the workplace. I unfortunately missed it but was still excited to see Cantet's newest film, Time Out. Like The Piano Teacher before it, Time Out has arrived -- it played at the San Francisco International Film Festival -- with enthusiastic acclaim from both French and New York critics. And, unfortunately, as with The Piano Teacher, I sat baffled and disappointed as the film wildly failed to live up to the hype.

While Human Resources was about working, Time Out is about lack of work. In the first 15 minutes, the film's protagonist Vincent (Aurelien Recoing) has lost his job and has lied to his wife and kids about it. He spends his days driving around, eating mini-mart food and talking on his cell phone, pretending that he's "changing jobs." He sneaks into an office building, overhears part of a meeting and uses that information to invent a fictional job with the United Nations about which he can tell his family. Meanwhile, he cooks up an investment scam with which to bilk his friends and family out of their hard-earned cash.

It occurred to me early on that this is basically a sitcom plot, most likely one for the insultingly dim "Everybody Loves Raymond," in which the husband does something stupid, lies to his wife about it, gets caught in his lie and learns an important lesson -- only to revert back to stupidity just in time for next week's show. I despise "Raymond," but at least it's over in just 23 minutes, minus commercials. Covering basically the same ground in tedious detail, Time Out drags on for 130 minutes. It's a vacuum of a movie, focusing on lots and lots of inaction and non-events. Even when Vincent gets a chance to do something -- such as when a shady businessman named Jean-Michel (beautifully played by Serge Livrozet) offers him a job helping smuggle and sell stolen goods -- he wastes time by turning it down first before changing his mind and accepting. When his family finally catches him in his lies, he prefers to jump out the window and run than to face the music.

It's conceivable that many of the reviewers who liked Time Out found art somewhere in its empty spaces. But I found myself growing more and more frustrated and detached as Vincent became more and more abhorrent. One reviewer compared the film to Herman Melville's story Bartleby, in which the main character chooses inaction, replying "I would prefer not to" to every request of him. Nice try, but Vincent never actually makes such a decision. He's inactive in an annoyingly passive-aggressive way. Maybe Cantet meant viewers to see Time Out as the flip-side of Human Resources, which automatically leaves me out of the loop. Buy if that's not the case, then Time Out simply solidifies as a frustrating, vacant exercise.

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