Movie Review: 'The Time Being' -- 1.5 stars
The Time Being
Directed by Nenad Cicin-Sain
Starring Wes Bentley, Frank Langella
Playing at Quad Cinema
Wes Bentley sports a video camera throughout a good chunk of "The Time Being," but don't worry. There aren't any dissertations on the beauty to be found in a floating plastic bag. This isn't a sequel to "American Beauty."
Instead, Bentley plays painter Daniel, who is experiencing a professional crisis. His art won't sell and he's at a loss for inspiration. Enter wealthy benefactor Warner Dax (Frank Langella), who offers a strange proposition: Film the sunrise and get $1,000.
This sounds like the set-up for some David Lynchian surrealism, a thriller centered on voyeurism, fraying psychologies and sinister motivations. It's none of the above.
A more apt title might have been "Wes Bentley Stares at Stuff," because that's most of what happens throughout Nenad Cicin-Sain's flick, which builds a mystery with no excitement or payoff.
In a larger sense, the filmmaker aims for a meditation on the artistic process, looking at an event that shakes up a man stuck in stasis.
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-colored paint rendered as if they're molecules in a Petri dish.
But the movie won't leave anyone pondering the vastness of the universe or our drive to express our artistic selves. Bentley is frozen-faced throughout, standing erect and pondering the distance. Langella's character is a total enigma.
The personal strife that accompanies Daniel's professional tumult is thoroughly rushed, as if the filmmaker (who co-wrote the script) aimed to skip the whole story thing in order to keep showing off visually. One minute, the character is dancing with his wife (Sarah Paulson) while sporting a pair of boxers on his head and the next she's about ready to take their young son and leave him.
Put another way, "The Time Being" offers lots of beauty and far too little interesting drama.