Keeping company with American Beauty and The Ice Storm, French director Laurent Cantet's Time Out joins the genre of films in which the central conflict involves finding a sense of value and individuality in the suburban doldrums. And the unemployed may find a new role model in Time Out's protagonist, Vincent (Serge Livrozet).
After being canned from his job as a consultant, Vincent fails to tell his family, choosing to fill his days driving aimlessly around France and spinning the lie that he is still a productive member of his suburb. Vincent is first introduced as he sleeps in the passenger seat of his eurotrash minivan. When he wakes, he calls his wife on his cell phone to say he just left an important meeting and that he may be too busy to make dinner.
Caught in the momentum of his illusion, Vincent eventually promotes himself from his non-job to an imaginary non-job as a United Nations consultant in Geneva--a job that requires regular commuting to Switzerland and long hours. From there, he tersely dishes out heavy helpings of pathetic lies and simple con jobs.
Unlike the American entries into the suburban-midlife-crisis genre, Time Out is doleful and subtle. There is no lust, death, or murder. Even the moody Ice Storm couldn't resist so-called "key parties" to enunciate the wild swings between suburban comfort and an appetite for adventure. Instead, the tension in Time Out is far less contrived. Although Vincent works full-time to avoid the rat race, he cannot escape its pull; like so many of us, he measures his self-worth by his unemployment.
Vincent's cons and lies should alienate him from the audience; instead, he is brave and charismatic. After all, his intentions are only good: to keep his family happy. Moreover, his emotional deadpan and distance only amplify the story tension. It is clear that his illusion will collapse like a ton of bricks, yet Vincent apathetically does nothing to save himself.
Time Out is both charming and deeply disturbing. And what better way to spend an evening if you're unemployed?