BEING FLYNN (2012)


 Greetings again from the darkness. Having done no research to determine how closely Nick Flynn’s autobiography/memoirs entitled “Another Bull**** Night in Suck City” follows his real life, it is safe for me to say that there is some pleasure to be had from a movie that lacks the traditional Hollywood ending of redemption for rotten souls. We do know that in real life, as in the movie, Nick met his long-lost father while working at a homeless shelter. This happened after Nick’s mother committed suicide.  Not exactly the most cheerful start, eh?

This story will strike a familiar chord with anyone who has experienced abandonment by a parent (or two). Hopefully, your personal story doesn’t also include the alcohol and drug abuse, as well as the guilt of believing you were responsible for the loving parent’s suicide. Nick’s story does.  He makes no apologies for the behavior of himself or either of his parents.  He just lays it out for us to see.

Nick is played well with an almost detached passive aggressiveness by Paul Dano. He seems constantly numbed by the situation life places him in. Astonishment kicks in when he comes face to face with his father Jonathan, a self-proclaimed brilliant writer, but also con artist and racist. Jonathan, played by Robert DeNiro, is first seen as a taxi driver. Yes, Robert DeNiro as a taxi driver, almost 40 years after his iconic turn in Taxi Driver! It’s a startling image for a movie lover, but one that doesn’t last long. Jonathan loses that job as he has lost everything else.

 Nick’s internal battle is obvious. He doesn’t want to be his father, but constantly sees glimpses that they are more similar than he would prefer. Nick manages to mess up a good thing with his co-worker played by the terrific Olivia Thirlby. She experiences the frustration of trying to save someone who doesn’t really want to be saved.

Strong support work comes from Wes Studi, Dale Dickey, William Stadler, Lili Taylor (Nick Flynn‘s real life wife) and Julianne Moore. Ms. Moore plays Nick’s mother, but really has little to do. Though she provided a strong foundation for Nick, this is really the story of Nick and Jonathan. It’s DeNiro’s best dramatic work in years and is a reminder that he is capable of more than the “Focker” movies (Paul Weitz actually directed Being Flynn AND Little Fockers, as well as About a Boy and American Pie.  This one can’t be termed enjoyable, but it is an interesting look at “real” life without a Hollywood twist.

SEE THIS MOVIE IF: you have forgotten (or never knew) that Robert DeNiro is an accomplished dramatic actor

SKIP THIS MOVIE IF: bleak, dysfunctional family dramas are not your preference for springtime fare

watch the trailer:

4 Responses to BEING FLYNN (2012)

  1. Bruce says:

    I was watching Casino the other night and thought it was one of DeNiro’s last good roles before he ventured into the land of Billy Crystal and Ben Stiller. What a waste of a talented actor.

    • I am certainly no fan of Focker comedies or the Analyze comedies, but those films all made tons of money. It’s actually a bit painful to me to watch him in those roles. I prefer the amazing actor who was so powerful in Godfather II, Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter, Raging Bull, Once Upon a Time in America, The Untouchables, Goodfellas, Casino, and Heat. I even enjoyed his comedy in Midnight Run and tongue-in-cheek role in Machete.

  2. It was your review of Being Flynn that prompted me to seek and watch it. I thoroughly enjoyed the darkness of the story and brilliant acting. The ending was the best I could have wished for; not fairy-tale, not gloom either, just right.
    Not since ‘My name is Bill W’ had I seen such authentic portrayal of self abuse of addicts, truly remarkable.
    Thanks for covering such movies.

    • Interesting that you point out the overall weakness in how Hollywood portrays “addicts”. It seems they usually fall into one of two categories: angry/out of control or likeable/just needs love. I thought DeNiro had the physical presence necessary to pull off this contrast with Paul Dano. Certainly not a feel-good movie, but it was a bit overlooked in my eyes.

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