On Being Flynn

Though I have yet to come across a Paul Dano film I didn’t enjoy, I sadly can’t say the same for Robert De Niro. The latter’s latest effort in Being Flynn, however, surely pleased (and hopefully signals more satisfying performances to come). The two acting powerhouses play opposite one another in Being Flynn, a recently-released indie film based on Nick Flynn’s memoir entitled Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. I was intrigued enough by the book’s title when I came across it years ago to buy a copy for myself, but it was only recently that I actually sat down and read the thing. Though I enjoyed Flynn’s memoir, this was one of those very rare cases (if not the only case) in which I enjoyed the film version better than the book.

Dano as Nick Flynn and De Niro as Nick’s father Jonathan deliver performances that carry this movie along, as I imagine it would have dragged a bit if headed by less talented actors. The story is of a family far beyond dysfunctional, entering the territory of defunct. Though Jonathan was largely absent for the majority of his son’s life, Nick knew of his father’s delusions of being one of the nation’s most brilliant novelists from a very young age. With this knowledge in the back of his mind, Nick hesitantly followed is his father’s wayward footsteps, pursuing the craft of writing himself.

Though Nick’s path is not quite as turbulent and disarrayed as his father’s, the younger Flynn inherits plenty of baggage from his parents’ nonexistent relationship, being raised in a home headed by a single mother, and the constant rotation of father figures that entered and quickly exited his life. Nick stumbles upon work at a Boston homeless shelter while between jobs and soon finds himself stationed in gainful employment. When Jonathan shows up in line at the shelter one winter night, the small semblance of stability Nick has forged is quickly thrown off balance and his father’s delusions of literary grandeur become impossible to ignore.

I appreciated Flynn’s memoir for the story he had to tell; it was only his narrative style that left me less than satisfied. I entered the theater with less than high hopes for the film version, not sure how Nick’s complicated story would play out on screen. But I was very much pleased by the cinematic storytelling, the pacing of the movie, and the performances delivered. Though there is yet to be an exceedingly positive consensus from the critics (according to Rotten Tomatoes), I definitely think Being Flynn is worth a shot. I left the theatre feeling good, pleased by the $7.50 investment I made in the matinee showing. Despite my misgivings with the written version of Flynn’s story, the film portrayal was much more satisfying and capitalized on the potential provided by Flynn’s life story and excellent casting.

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