Working in a Boston homeless shelter, Nick Flynn re-encounters his father, a con man and self-proclaimed poet. Sensing trouble in his own life, Nick wrestles with the notion of reaching out yet again to his dad.
Year 1, Day 263
BEFORE: Now that leftover chain is over, it’s time to move on to new ventures. While there isn’t really any connection with these last two weeks or so (a brief documentary kick towards the end, but nothing major), big things are planned for the next month and a half or so. April will be comedy month (because April Fools silly) with a week stint of Miyazaki films. May will feature prep for the new Star Trek Into Darkness with all eleven Star Trek films followed by a continuation of comedy films.
For now, Being Flynn is on tap and brings Robert De Niro back for the first time since Taxi Driver and Paul Dano who was last seen in Cowboys & Aliens. The big positive going into the film is it takes place in Boston. I don’t know much else besides that, so I’ll leave it there.
AFTER: It’s interesting that the last two Robert De Niro films I’ve seen both involve a taxi cab. The first is obviously Taxi Driver but De Niro briefly reprises this role in Being Flynn as he uses the job as a way to provide for his writing endeavors. Being Flynn is not the same film though, nor should it be. However, despite some great acting which drives the general feel of the film, there isn’t much going for it.
There have been a few films about writers in the marathon before (Adaptation. comes to mind) and it seems like happiness is not synonymous with the profession. Everyone is always sadden and depressed and never really successful; all writers seem to struggle. I won’t critique this point, whether true or not it’s what is depicted. And De Niro and Dano do a great job a playing struggling writers who have had a lot of stuff happen to them. Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) has suffered through his father, Jonathan (Robert De Niro), never being there - he was in jail for forged checks - and his mother’s, Jody (Julianne Moore), suicide. Jonathan, in addition to having been in prison for many years, seems to be going senile in his old age - a crazy old man. These characters are well communicated and it also helps convey the story as well.
But the story is marred with many minor issues which combine to create one big problem. Minor issues include things like the voice overs (not one, but two) and Nick’s flashbacks to childhood. In other words, the ways of telling the story. The voice overs didn’t add anything to what was being shown. Voice overs shouldn’t be used as an expository device (narrating what’s happening on screen) but rather as stories in and of themselves. Thoughts behind what’s happening, feelings on something else related to the main story. Here the voice overs aired on the side of caution and went with simple exposition not adding much. Same thing with the childhood flashbacks. First, they were very sparse and sporadic which raises the question of if they were needed in the first place. I think they were helpful at adding to how Jonathan’s absence affected Nick, but they were just thrown in - there should have shown more. The overarching problem created by these issues, which you may have already picked up on, is that it detracts from the film. While the general feeling and tone comes across, anything deeper is just not there.
Being Flynn scratches the surface of what could be a fantastic film. De Niro and Dano bring some quality talent to the film and prevent it from being worse than it is. But no matter how great they are, the story just isn’t all there. I would say it’s an interesting film and wouldn’t completely shy away from watching it, but it won’t be a favorite.
RATING: 3 out of 5