Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Being Flynn

Having read the book "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City" written by Nick Flynn, I was very interested in seeing how the film "Being Flynn" would be adapted for the big screen.  The story is universal father-son story asks the question if we are destined to become our parents; and can we break out from the form.  The film is not watered down, which contributes to a slow pace.  Paul Weitz adapted the screenplay and directed the film. 

The film operates with a dual narrative between Nick's story and the words of Jonathan.  The story follows the reunion between Nick Flynn (Paul Dano), a social worker working at a homeless shelter who spots his father who he hasn't seen for his entire life, Jonathan Flynn (Robert De Niro), checking into the homeless shelter.  More importantly the story deals with their troubled pasts and the difficulty of moving on.  Having Jonathan in the homeless shelter disorients Nick and leads him to belligerent behavior similar to his father.  The memories of his mother (Julianne Moore), his relationship with a co-worker (Olivia Thirlby), and batteling with his own demons makes everything crash down at once. 

The depiction of what it means to be homeless in America and how society treats them is shockingly raw.  Nothing is more telling than the few short scenes in the coffee shop where Jonathan is once served an extra mug of coffee while a homeless person is shunned outside, only to later be pushed aside for a paper cup and told to stay outside later in the film.  The human being hasn't changed, but the perception has.  There's this one shot of Jonathan curling up on a grate that's blowing warm air on a freezing night that sticks with you after the film ends. You're eventually looking down at Jonathan; all bundled up as the camera slowly ascends to the heavens.  The visual of a heated room with no walls that you cannot escape from because if you do you will be frostbitten is so sad. 

This is the best Robert De Niro performance in years. His anger and racism towards people he doesn't understand, his delusions of becoming a great writer and his slow downward spiral into violent dementia are really powerful and De Niro portrays all of it exceptionally well with dark humor and nobility.  This performance is deserving of consideration for a best supporting actor nomination. 

Paul Dano is an amazing young actor that much like his character struggles to follow in the footsteps of De Niro.  Dano's performance delivers a weird intensity and openess to watch how the chemistry between he and everyone around him.  The other performances in the film from Julianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby, Lili Taylor, and Dale Dickeyare all amazing.   With a story about two men, it is fascinating to see the powerful women in their lives and how they impact the man they are.

Being Flynn isn't an easy film to access, but will more than likely touch you in some way.  I wanted to enjoy the film even more after having read the book.  The main drawback being the pacing of the film.  Being Flynn allows you to witness the troublesome times of an individual, destroy themselves, and eventually rebuild themselves for the better.  But in the end all I can give it is 4 Quacks. 

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