Film: Being Flynn (2012)
Cast includes: Robert De Niro (Goodfellas), Paul Dano (Little Miss Sunshine), Julianne Moore (The Kids Are All Right), Olivia Thirlby (Juno)
Writer/Director: Paul Weitz (About a Boy)
Genre: Drama, Humor (102 minutes) Based on a memoir by Nick Flynn
"Don't worry, you're in the hands of a master storyteller," says Flynn... that would be Jonathan Flynn. He tells us that he's one of America's three classic storytellers, "and soon, very soon, I shall be known." In the voice of Nicholas Flynn, we're told that it's his father's story, "but he's not telling it. I am." He goes on to tell us, "All my life, my father has been manifest as an absence." Yet, "some part of me always knew he'd find me some day." About the only way Nick knew his father was from his letters -- hundreds of them. It seems that even from afar, Jonathan passed on the longing to become a writer.
When Nick needs to find a new apartment, the guys are concerned that he might have family needing to crash on the sofa. "My mother's dead. And my father... I haven't seen him in 18 years." It's the perfect answer -- Nick gets the apartment. So it's quite a shock when Nick gets the phone call from his father ordering, not requesting, that Nick come over right away with a truck and help him move -- something about a "scum-sucking landlord." Without the slightest greeting, Jonathan begins making demands. "We were put on this earth to help other people." (Meaning: "You need to help me.") Jonathan can be charming when it suits his needs -- an "excellent raconteur," he's fond of saying about himself. Nick figures the quickest way to get his life back is to help out and move on. The only catch is that Nick now works at Harbor Street Inn, a shelter for homeless men and it doesn't take long before Jonathan shows up, complete with grandiose delusions and demands.
This film would be downright depressing if it weren't so cleverly written and well-performed. It skillfully weaves together the father/son writing competition with an intensely dysfunctional parent/child relationship. This is the stuff that keeps shrinking in show business... a self-centered, needy, competitive parent combined with a son's fear that DNA might control his fate. Yet the story is told without being judgmental. There are times, to be sure, when we'd like to haul-off and hit Flynn senior. His behavior is downright reprehensible... yet we can't give up on him entirely. Based on a memoir by Nick Flynn, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, this movie walks a fine line and does it with nuance and complexity. It's not always easy to separate the endearing delusions from the aggravating ones. When Flynn senior ends up in the homeless shelter, he justifies it this way: "I'm doing the same thing here that you are -- gathering material. Life is gathering material."
3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Skillful, humorous telling of a dysfunctional father/son relationship... under the humor, there's still plenty of pain
Rated: R (Language, drugs)
Distribution: Mainstream wide release
Tempo: Cruises comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought provoking
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