BEING FLYNN – The Review
BEING FLYNN is the new comedy/drama that explores the unique bond ( or lack ) between father and son. Based on the memoir by Nick Flynn, ” Another Bulls**t Day in Suck City “, Paul ( ABOUT A BOY ) Weitz’s new film deals with a young man estranged from a father absent from most of his childhood. He’s angry about the missing years, but somewhat eager to get to know him, along with the fear that he may become his father. The movie deals well in presenting these conflicting emotions while also shining a light on one of the biggest problems of society. It also gives Robert DeNiro one of his most interesting film roles in years.
The opening scenes of BEING FLYNN introduce us to son and father. Nick Flynn is an unemployed, directionless twenty-something who flirts with the idea of being a writer. After being tossed out of the home he shared with his flight attendant girlfriend, he hooks up with two young men turning a former strip club into an apartment. We see flashbacks of young Nick as a pre-teen being raised alone by his mother Jody ( Julianne Moore ) after his father is sent to jail for helping pass bad checks. But Dad never returns after his prison stint. Turns out that the cantankerous elder Jonathan Flynn ( DeNiro ) drives a cab not far from his son. After driving the streets, he returns to his crummy flat for vodka ( screwdrivers actually ) and to pound away on his old typewriter, adding to a massive literary work that may never be finished ( or published ). That is until a battle with a noisy downstairs neighbor causes him to be evicted. Out of the blue, Jonathan calls Nick to help him move his meager possessions into a storage unit. After everything is loaded up, the two men part abruptly. Dad believes he can crash temporarily with some old drinking buddies. Nick soon takes the suggestion of on-again, off-again girlfriend Denise ( Olivia Thirlby ) and joins her,working at a homeless shelter. He begins to actually enjoy his job until Dad shows up for a place to stay. What will happen to Nick’s newly ordered, organized life now that his father is now firmly back in his life?
For about the first half of the film the time is divided between the two Flynns, with Jonathan’s story being the more compelling. Dano does well as this drifting young man who finally finds a direction before his dad’s return sends him into a downward spiral leading to very serious drug dependency. The road to addiction has been traveled many times before at the cinema and we don’t really learn anything new. The journey of DeNiro’s Jonathan is one not often explored in film ( and certainly not by as gifted an actor ). We get to see how someone literally slips through the cracks of society and ends up sleeping in the streets ( very cold ones, you can almost feel the frostbite forming on his toes and fingers ). We feel enormous empathy for him even though the elder Flynn is not a pleasant guy to be around. He’s delusional ( a publisher’s rejection letter is high praise ), stubborn, egotistical, racist, and homophobic. It’s a testament to DeNiro’s skills that he makes this misanthrope someone worthy of our sympathies. Occasionally he’ll launch into screaming diatribes that come close to being a ” best of Bobby D ” montage, but after seeing him mired in the ” Focker ” comedies and under-written supporting roles ( LIMITLESS ), here’s a part worthy of his time ( and ours ). Moore hasn’t much to do as flashback mom besides suppressing her frustrations in front of her boy, sharing a crude, coarse catch phrase, and modeling some unflattering 1970′s ( I think! ) fashions as she goes back and forth from her jobs as waitress and bank teller. We even get a quick look at her line-up of somewhat “skeezy ” boyfriends. It’s always a treat to see JUNO’s Thirlby in a new film, but here her character functions mostly as a plot device to get Nick to the shelter and later as his moral compass ( a very lovely Jiminy Cricket ). The rest of the shelter group are played by several terrific character actors particularly Wes Studi as the boss AKA ” The Captain ” and a motherly ex-meth user player by indie-film stalwart Lili Taylor ( wanted to see more of her ). Weitz does a great job of presenting the city as an urban jungle, full of unexpected dangers ( usually at night ). Though BEING FLYNN may stumble a bit in its father/son reunion dramatics , it’s a harrowing study of an old, obstinate crackpot that society almost throws away.
Overall rating: 3.5 Out of 5 Stars