Being Flynn is Paul Weitz’s version of A Better Life, so to speak. In the past few years, the Weitz brothers have individually (and literally) gone from big blockbusters (Little Fockers, The Twilight Saga: New Moon) to more personal projects about the complications between father and son relationships. Adapted from Nick Flynn’s acclaimed 2004 memoir Another Bullshit Night In Suck City, Being Flynn tells the story between Nick, played by Paul Dano, and his estranged father of 18-years, Jonathan Flynn, played by Robert De Niro.
- Director: Paul Weitz
- Writer: Paul Weitz (screenplay), Nick Flynn (story)
- Starring: Robert De Niro, Paul Dano and Julianne Moore
- Cinematography: Declan Quinn
While working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) re-encounters his father, Jonathan Flynn (Robert De Niro), a con man and self-proclaimed poet. Stressed by the troubles in his own life and the loss of his mother (Julianne Moore) , Nick wrestles with the notion of building a relationship with his father.
- Lead Performances: Throughout his career, Robert De Niro has given us some of the most memorable and authentic performances in film history (his recent previous choices – Little Fockers, Limitless, New Year’s Eve – not included). Jonathan Flynn is one of them. It’s hard to love and understand a man who abandons his family for nothing, as Jonathan does, but De Niro plays this insensitive and despicable man with charm and wit. It’s nice to know that one of the greatest actors of all time still has it in him to give a performance worthy of our time. Then there’s Paul Dano, who is undeniably one of the greatest young actors of this time. He knows just how far to go with a dramatic performance. In Being Flynn, he’s playing an aimless, drug-addicted hipster who suffers from severe daddy issues. He dreams of one day being a writer, but his ambition is blocked by the absence, and later, presence of his father. Dano is gifted. He doesn’t need to say much for us to know what he’s feeling because it’s all registered in his face, and that’s louder than screams.
- Supporting Performances: De Niro and Dano aren’t the only shinning stars in Being Flynn. There’s also Julianne Moore, who’s a bit tricky sometimes, but still knows how to deliver. She plays Nick’s hardworking single mother. We only see her a handful of times through Nick’s flashbacks – her coming home between jobs to feed him – but despite her character’s brevity, Moore makes us understand and sympathize with her. Then there’s Olivia Thirlby, Lili Taylor, and Eddie Rouse, who all play Nick’s co-workers at the shelter. Like Nick, they’re struggling with their own problems, and although this story isn’t about them, their performances add authenticity to the whole.
- Authenticity: Speaking of authenticity, this film succeeds in looking like the real thing. Most of the movie takes place inside a homeless shelter in Boston, where bums and crack-addicts spend their nights sleeping on bunk-beds. It’s a crowded and dirty place, and you really get the feeling that the shelter is a kind of last stop before death.
- Flashbacks: While there are a few funny moments this is by no means a feel-good movie. However, through a series of flashbacks, Nick takes us to a time where he was happy. We see him playing catch by himself and spending time with his mother, enjoying a giant bowl of ice-cream. It’s a brief moment of happiness, but nice to know there was one.
- Narrations: The film is narrated by both Nick and Jonathan, and unfortunately, it’s where the film loses much of it’s effectiveness. The voice-over switches back and forth between father and son, almost as if they are fighting over the audiences’ attention. It doesn’t work out very well. This isn’t a tournament between who’s the better writer or who’s the better person, it’s a story about characters trying to get back on their feet after they’ve hit rock bottom.
- Resolution?: These characters have a lot of issues. Nick and Jonathan have a long way to go before they establish a real relationship, and even then, who knows if it’ll happen. Too much harm has been done. In the end, these characters are still strangers towards each other, and it’s hard to say if they’ll ever be anything more.
Although the narrations don’t work, Being Flynn has some great performances that are worth watching.
Being Flynn opens in select theaters on March 2, 2012.
Will you watch Being Flynn?