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the-time-being-artworkReleased on VOD: 2014

Genre: Mystery

Directed by: Nenad Cicin-Sain

Starring: Frank Langella, Wes Bentley, Sarah Paulson, Ahna O’Reilly

Daniel (Wes Bentley) is a struggling Los Angeles painter with a wife (Sarah Paulson) and kid to support. At the opening of his latest unsuccessful gallery show, he’s invited to meet the wealthy, ailing recluse responsible for the only sale of the night. Warner (Frank Langella) offers Daniel significant sums of money to film seemingly mundane subjects for him: a sunrise, children playing in a park, a museum tour.

Playing his usual-unusual role of enigmatic rich man asking mysterious favours of a somewhat struggling younger person, whilst hiding his own questionable agenda (see also The Ninth Gate and The Box), Langella shows up on screen for maybe ten minutes, snapping at his maid to go the pharmacy after she literally just said she was going there. He then follows up with the memorable one liner “Life’s a lot less complicated ever since I stopped hearing women talk”. It’s the kind of irresistible barbed one liner that I love hearing from Langella, and as he went about describing just exactly what he wanted from the young painter whose time and energy he solicits, I was more then wrapped up in the whole mysterious vibe of the film.

If you’re a Frank Langella fan, you should see this film. He doesn’t disappoint but the film around him does. The script is one dimensional, providing only minimal insight into the artistic process, and the characters aren’t compelling enough to distract you from the pretentious heave of artistic self-involvement. The characters aren’t so much characters rather than sketches – and poor ones at that.
the-time-beingIt pains me to say this but Wes Bentley is not at his best here. He brings very little energy to his role as a neglectful father and husband consumed by his love for the canvas. As a result, the drama remains tentative, as his unceasing intensity sinks the film.

Despite the movie’s flaws, Cicin-Sain does show considerable confidence for a first-time writer and director. Whilst the underdeveloped script — co-written by Richard Gladstein — never earns its sense of self-importance, the visuals are evocative enough to draw us further into the film’s ultimately unsatisfying mysteries. The style fits. There are extreme close-ups of pupils dilating matched to the iris of a camera, picturesque shots of the vast ocean meeting a stormy sky on the horizon, and drops of multi-coloured paint rendered as if they’re molecules. It’s artistically shot and, from that perspective, it’s very nice to look at.

The Time Being is visually sharp, but it’s about as dramatically satisfying as watching paint dry. It’s a terminally flimsy indie about selfish artists that had a good cast but failed to capitalise on it.

★★

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