The spectacular look bestowed on Nenad Cicin-Sain’s debut, “The Time Being,” by d.p. Mihai Malaimare Jr. (“The Master”) is symptomatic of its ills: all seductive surfaces, nothing to grab hold of. As a somnambulistic Wes Bentley and a poisonous Frank Langella face off as a young artist and his older, prickly benefactor, there’s little reason to think any of it remotely true, as beautiful as it may be. Cicin-Sain generates a dark mood (and dark rooms), but the artistic subject and gothic atmosphere won’t be enough to generate arthouse interest. A plot twist comes too early; emotional payoff never arrives.
Artist Daniel (Bentley) can’t sell a painting, but he seems far from desperate. So it’s a wonder why he’d agree to jump through the hoops set up by Warner (Langella), a dying man who wants something very vague out of the tasks he gives the younger man (filming a gallery show in San Francisco, or a sunset in Santa Monica). It does put Daniel in the path of Sarah (Sarah Paulson), the beautiful daughter of a famous artist. But nothing remotely like a connection develops between anyone here.