Not to be glib, but sitting through the art-centric chamber piece “The Time Being” is truly like watching paint dry. This airless tale of struggling artist Daniel (Wes Bentley), who submits to a humiliating series of work assignments by a dying, mysterious recluse named Warner (Frank Langella), attempts to plumb the emotional depths of this pair of tortured souls yet never sufficiently makes us care about either.
Director Nenad Cicin-Sain, who co-wrote with veteran producer Richard N. Gladstein, takes a style over substance approach, filling his frames with an abundance of gorgeously lit and composed images (kudos to cinematographer Mihai Malaimare) while offering too much first-draft dialogue, a clutch of skipped story beats and skimmed thematics, plus an overall lack of urgency.
By the time the film winds its way to a key revelation involving Warner’s past and his connection to a recurring woman of interest (Sarah Paulson), viewers may find themselves irrevocably checked out of this rarified journey.
The movie’s ill-directed leads don’t help matters. Bentley, despite his striking good looks and dark earnestness, mostly mumbles and gazes his way through his undercooked role. As for Langella, one of the screen’s most reliably riveting presences, he pushes the cranky-prickly button here with a one-note automaticity that implies more rush job than rich canvas.
“The Time Being”
Rating: No MPAA rating
Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes
Playing: Laemmle’s Music Hall, Beverly Hills