Archive for the ‘Being Flynn’ Category

Being Flynn

Being Flynn is the story of a struggling writer, Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) and his estranged father Jonathon (Robert DeNiro).  Nick hasn’t talked to his father in almost two decades, but Jonathon decides to reach out to Nick after he falls on hard times and is evicted from his apartment.

Nick decides to help his father, but only because he knows nothing about him…except that he claims to be one of the great American writers of all time.  Nick’s mother Jody (Julianne Moore) took care of him as a child, while his father was in prison and gone entirely.  The film jumps back and forth from Nick’s time as a child and the present as he gets to know what a rotten bastard his father really is.   Jonathon is a racist, homophobic, con-man…but he’s an interesting one if there was such a thing.

They differ on a lot of things, especially the way in which they remember Jody, but as much as they butt heads together they are the same in a lot of ways, and are both struggling to find a voice within themselves as writers.

Nick spends his time working in a homeless shelter, that his friend-with-benefits Denise (Olivia Thirlby) suggested he work at.  He works on his writing through his experiences with those he meets.  Like his father Nick is a transient, bouncing around from job to job, but Nick sees the good in everyone.  He believes in people.  His father believes that there is no good in people.  People don’t change.   Humanity has lost its soul.

His father spends his days and night driving a cab after being evicted from his home.  To me this could have been the entire movie on its own.  A 24 hour taxi cab confession from the point of a view of an arrogant, never was of a writer.  We follow Nick and John’s separate lives, but the begin to intersect and that’s when we really learn all about them.  John is forced to stay at the homeless shelter Nick works at when everything fails.

Director Paul Weitz, who is most well known with his connection to his brother Chris and American Pie, takes a stab at a drama here, something his brother has gotten quite good as seen in one of last years best films, A Better Life.  The film is taken from the memoirs of real life author Nick Flynn, and it’s told in his voice.  We learn a lot about the people he encounters in the homeless shelter, and of his feelings towards his own life and his father through his prose.

Now I’m not saying that DeNiro has completely lost his acting chops or anything, but his acting has definitely taken a back seat to turning out garbage over the past 15 or so years, and he is mildly interesting as John.  He attempts to be a sympathetic and lost man, but it just comes off as pathetic at times.  Dano is the star of the show here.  Dano’s acting talent has become quite a surprise after I first saw him in The Girl Next Door.  He went on to play preacher Paul/Eli Sunday in my favorite film of 2007 There Will Be Blood, where his acting first gained prominence.   He’s wild-eyed, optimistic, and just plain great here, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what he has to offer in two films coming out soon, Ruby Sparks and Looper.

Being Flynn is an interesting film, and it is entertaining as well.  The problem is that the two separate stories that unfold are more interesting on their own than they are when they begin to merge together.  I just don’t think that it’s the Oscar caliber film that it is trying to be.   You can pretty much see everything ahead of time as it unfolds in front of you.  A nice little independent sleeper though, that is worth the watch.

Grade: B