Thursday, September 20, 2012
Stars: Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, Jullianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby
Director: Paul Weitz
Being Flynn opens with Jonathan Flynn's bombastic narration: America has produced only three classic writers: Mark Twain...J.D. Salinger...and ME! Of course, we've never heard of Jonathan Flynn, (Robert De Niro) so at the outset we know the guy is off his nut.
The narrative passes from father to son--like the writing ability Jonathon has purportedly passed on to Nick Flynn. Nick (Paul Dano) weaves a tale about his alcoholic, delusional , con man of a dad who shows up in his life after being absent for most of it. The story centers on a homeless shelter where Nick has landed a job, and where his dad has taken up residence. Faced with having to deal with the man up close and personal, Nick struggles to not become his father--though his sometimes girlfriend (Olivia Thirlby) begins to observe more and more similarities-- as the debate of nature versus nurture is opened once again. We see the nurture aspect of Nick's life in flashbacks to his deceased mother (Julianne Moore) who raised him in her husband's absence.
Jonathan is an out and out racist and homophobe, and Being Flynn is that rare creative work where there are no punches being pulled in the name of political correctness to tone down his offensive language and behavior (the script tries to be faithful to the real Nick Flynn's award winning 2004 memoir, Another Bullshit Night In Suck City.) And that, in my opinion, is why Being Flynn had such a short run in the theaters. I was all set to see it, but I blinked and it was gone. Suffice it to say the average movie goer may feel squeamish with the in-your-face crudeness that spills from Jonathan's lips at every turn (though I couldn't help but cackle at some of it). So in a climate where certain words and ideas have essentially been banned from public expression in America, let's just quietly make this film disappear, (I can hear them saying) and anyone who really wants to see it can wait for the DVD. Which I did.
And I say too bad that not a lot of people saw it, because De Niro is on top of his game as an individual who has hit bottom. I was flashing back to Ratso Rizzo, Dustin Hoffman's character in Midnight Cowboy, though the similarity is only that they are two brilliant portrayals of down-and-outers. But, you'll be happy to know, the theme here is redemption, and whether it's possible for a man like Jonathan Flynn. Or his son for that matter. With a captivating soundtrack by Badly Drawn Boy.
Being Flynn is not a pretty movie. But it is beautiful.