By Ruth Ferguson
Sometimes you see a movie and when you walk out of the theater the mood and issues of the film go with you. Being Flynn is that type of movie. There are moments of levity which coming from writer and director Paul Weitz can be expected. However, the movie addresses serious issues so it is not a laugh a minute flick. Weitz’s (best known for American Pie and About A Boy) screenplay is based on Nick Flynn’s 2004 book Another Bulls**t Night in Suck City: A Memoir.
Primarily the film reminds you of how hard self-discovery can be when you feel you don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle. Are we the products of our environment or controller of our destiny? How much is our life shaped by our parents – even in their absence?
The son, Nick Flynn portrayed by Paul Dano (There Will Be Blood), who manages to hold his own fairly well opposite Oscar winner Robert De Niro who plays his racist, alcoholic, suddenly on the scene father, Jonathan. Also delivering a solid performance is Julianne Moore (Crazy, Stupid, Love.) as Jody, Nick’s dead mother.
Imagine getting a phone call from a man who says he is your father. Not only is the call out of the clear blue sky from a man you never met, but also it comes with a request for help. After ticking off his music playing neighbors, Jonathan calls Nick asking him to rush over quickly. Upon arrival, the nude Jonathan immediately puts Nick and friends to work on moving his possessions out of his one room apartment as he has been evicted. Without even a real thank you, poof “Dad” is gone again, but not before telling Nick – several times – what a great writer he is and that as his son, Nick should be a talented writer as well.
Nick actually is trying his hand at writing. He journals and creatively completes his daily-required log reports during the staff meeting at the homeless shelter where he works. It is through the homeless shelter that father and son meet again, when Nick looks up to help the next person in line and finds himself face to face with Jonathan. After his eviction from the apartment, Jonathan’s life has spiraled out of control and he is seeking solace from the winter cold nights.
From there the viewer receives an unvarnished, unromanticized, but not crusading view of life for those who work at shelters and those who need their help. It is through the simplicity of the storytelling, that the movie finds its power.
Perhaps feels like he has returned to the home of his Taxi Driver glory, De Niro’s performance takes you into the mind of his crazed character. With his self-centered racist ways, you hardly feel overwhelmed with sympathy but you come to care. Thus is the struggle of his son Nick as well.
The journey to the answers for Jonathan and Nick Flynn are uneven, but in the end a journey moviegoers will enjoy. Being Flynn is rated R for language and subject matter at a lean 102 minutes the film is showing at the Angelika Dallas.