Written Review: Being Flynn (2012)

by Jason Pyles
Movie Podcast Weekly.com

Premise: A delusional, dead-beat dad (Robert De Niro) resurfaces in the life of his son (Paul Dano), who works at a homeless shelter where he finds it especially difficult to serve his father as a patron.

Review: Unless you have an affinity for dramas or Robert De Niro, the trailer for “Being Flynn” doesn’t look like anything to write home about. It appears to be just another little indie drama with a big star, some clever dialogue, and a few poignant moments, something along the lines of another “Smart People” (2008) or the like. And it is that. But it’s also more.

I should confess that I’m typically not fond of dramas, and with my schedule, if a film doesn’t cruise along with action or steady dramatic developments, I become Rip Van Winkle by the 20-minute mark. To its credit, “Being Flynn” kept me awake and engaged for its entire 102-minute runtime.

What we have here is the story of two pitiful beings, but one wins our deep sympathy and the other doesn’t. Within the first couple of minutes, the film introduces a tug-of-war between the father and son characters. Like many movies, “Being Flynn” features some voice-over narration, except in this case, we have two competing narrators, the father and the son. This is neat, because we immediately recognize that De Niro’s character, Jonathan Flynn, is one of three things: an incredible optimist or a compulsive liar or a mentally ill man who has lost touch with reality and perpetually lives amid his delusions of grandeur.

The cinema should show, not tell, and “Being Flynn” does this expertly, as when we hear father Flynn’s contradictory narration about his life and there’s a vast and ironic disparity between what he’s describing and what we’re seeing onscreen. Excellent!

Both Jonathan Flynn and his son, Nick Flynn, fancy themselves as writers. Clearly, Nick has true talents, while his father considers himself to be one of America’s only three classic writers, which include Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger and himself. Throughout the film, he assures everyone that his writing is going very well, and it is “classic.”

To describe the developments of this movie is to reveal it wholesale, so I won’t. But I must mention a subplot that functions as the heart of this film, pumping life throughout it. Nick’s mother (and Jonathan’s ex-wife) is played by Julianne Moore. She has a smaller role, because she’s no longer in the picture. The details of this are the crown jewels of “Being Flynn” and the reason why you should definitely rent it. Even though this mother-and-son relationship isn’t shown very much, what is shown strikes me as capturing “cinematic truth,” where life is successfully emulated through its filmic portrayal. These scenes are beautiful and tragic and ultimately serve as the reason why we pull for Nick’s character.

There’s much to admire in “Being Flynn,” but there are some drug addiction story beats that are conveniently mild and too tidy. I’m not looking for “Requiem for a Dream” (2000) or anything, but the sanitized nature of this subplot does not resonate with cinematic truth.

Even so, the performances are solid. The film is well cast, and I always enjoy watching Olivia Thirlby, who plays Nick’s love interest and friend. “Being Flynn” is a good little character drama with gems of dialogue like, “We all need to create the story that will make sense of our lives,” and, “There’s a link between creativity and manic depression.” I can’t see watching this film over and over again, which is why I didn’t rate it as high as an 8, which means “Buy It!” But if you’re in the mood for a well made drama, then you can currently pick up “Being Flynn” at Redbox.

Verdict: 7.5 out of 10 ( Rental )

Directed by Paul Weitz.
Starring Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, Julianne Moore.
Genre: Drama
Country: USA
MPAA Rating: R (for language throughout, some sexual content, drug use, and brief nudity)
Runtime: 102 minutes.

Trailer: Watch
DVD: Amazon
Blu-ray: Amazon
U.S. Release Date: March 2, 2012 [limited]

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