Rachael's Movie Review: BEING FLYNN
Published: March 5, 2012 - 8:43am
Go see Being Flynn with someone you love, and make sure it's light out when you're done. Normally, this is the kind of warning I use for horror movies. Being Flynn is not a horror movie. And I'm not trying to discourage you from seeing it because I have to say, this was an incredibly beautiful, moving film. But man, it's dark. I walked out of the theater into the dim New York morning, and shivered.
Being Flynn was adapted by Oscar-nominated writer/director Paul Weitz from Nick Flynn’s 2004 memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. Weitz captures Flynn's fractured relationship with both his dead mother and living father with a combination of harsh lighting, crisp exposure and brutally honest dialogue.
Robert DeNiro and Paul Dano play our Flynns to perfection, waffling between sanity and drug-addled stupefaction. The cast is rounded out with Julianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby, Lili Taylor, and Wes Studi. Moore glows in the softened focus of Nick's memory as a mother who did her best. Thirlby anchors Nick's urban family with compassion and a complete lack of humor that will have you asking why you haven't seen more of her since her comedic turn in Juno.
When Nick Flynn's father reappears in his life after eighteen years of absence, the reunion is far from happy. Both father and son provide voice-over storytelling, consistently insisting they are great writers - classics as soon as they are published. But it is soon apparent that both struggle with addiction, depression and bad luck. Their paths cross with increasing frequency as Nick takes a job at a homeless shelter and Jonathan shortly thereafter becomes a guest. Overshadowing their story is the specter of Nick's mother, dead by her own hand in the not-so-distant past. Along the way, we see Nick build an urban tribe around himself and consequently sabotage it with his choices.
Despite the fact that both Flynns exhibit few characteristics that are inherently sympathetic, I think you will be as drawn into their rich stories as I was.
Can one life story have two authors? The new dramatic feature from Academy Award-nominated writer/director Paul Weitz is adapted from Nick Flynn’s 2004 memoir Another Bulls—t Night in Suck City. The movie explores bonds both unbreakable and fragile between parent and child. Nick Flynn (portrayed in the film by Paul Dano of “Little Miss Sunshine” and “There Will Be Blood”) is a young writer seeking to define himself. He misses his late mother Jody (four-time Academy Award nominee Julianne Moore) and her loving nature. But his father, Jonathan, is not even a memory, as Nick has not seen the man in 18 years. Jonathan Flynn (two-time Academy Award winner Robert De Niro) has long defined himself as a great writer, “a master storyteller.” After abandoning his wife and child, Jonathan scrapes through life on his own terms, and ends up serving time in prison for cashing forged checks. After prison, he drives a cab for a number of years, but with his drinking and eccentricities now accelerating, he loses his job. Despite the occasional grandiose letter to his son, he has remained absent from Nick’s life. Suddenly facing eviction from his apartment, Jonathan impulsively reaches out to Nick and the two come face-to-face. The older man is eloquent and formidable; overwhelmed, Nick nonetheless prepares to integrate his father into his own life. But, as quickly as he materialized, Jonathan flits away again.
Moving on, Nick takes a job at a homeless shelter, where he learns from Captain (Wes Studi) and Joy (Lili Taylor) how to relate to the guests who arrive night after night. Seeing the homeless – some permanently, some temporarily so – and hearing their stories, Nick finds purpose in his own life and work. He also sustains a romance with a co-worker, Denise (Olivia Thirlby). Then one night, Jonathan arrives, seeking a bed, and Nick’s senses of self and compassion falter. To give the two of them a shot at a real future, Nick will have to decide whom to seek redemption for first. Evocatively told, ruefully funny, and moving in its depiction of the ties that bind, “Being Flynn” tells a story that reveals universal truths.
Being Flynn is directed by Paul Weitz, who also adapted the screenplay, and stars Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, Olivia Thirlby, Lili Taylor, Wes Studi and Julianne Moore. Focus Features has scheduled the film for theatrical release beginning March 2nd, 2012.