Director: Paul Weitz (In Good Company, American Dreamz, Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant)
Screenplay: Paul Weitz, Nick Flynn
Producers: Michael Costigan, Andrew Miano, Paul Weitz
Starring: Paul Dano, Robert De Niro, Julianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby
MPAA Rating: R
Running time: 102 min.
It’s interesting that in the years since the Weitz brothers last worked together on a film, (2002’s About a Boy), the two have largely stuck to making films adapted from books and though Chris has taken on much larger Hollywood fare like The Golden Compass and The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Paul has stuck to making films that though not outside the mainstream, are decidedly much smaller and I daresay, interesting. It was therefore, not surprising to discover that Being Flynn is also based on a book, a memoir titled “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City,” and one that Weitz has been working on adapting for a number of years.
The film stars Paul Dano as Nick Flynn, a young man who finds himself lost in the world after his mother’s death. He moves in with some guys who introduce him to Denise, a friend of theirs who works at a homeless shelter. She encourages Nick to work there as well, at least until he can find something else, and what begins as a job to pay the bills while he works on his book turns into a life changing experience when his absent father walks in the door and forces Nick to re-evaluate his already troubled life.
Being Flynn isn’t a happy story but it is one that occasionally ventures into the humorous. It’s a challenge particularly because of the subject matter but with a good script and excellent performances, the hope and humour of the story comes through. Dano continues to play the awkward son and here his performance is edged with a dark intensity. The story delves into some difficult subjects including addiction and suicide and Flynn Jr. tries to navigate through much of it alone. Dano also brings a vulnerability to the character that I found refreshing from other similar characters that seem able to handle everything on their own. Nick Flynn does eventually get his life together but with the help and insistence of his new family at the homeless shelter and particularly his on-again-off-again girlfriend Denise (Olivia Thirlby).
Dano’s characterization also plays nicely opposite Robert De Niro’s Jonathan Flynn who is a much more dominant character. Flynn Sr. is loud and in your face and though De Niro’s performance here is one of his better showings from the last few years, the character is over the top and demands attention and yet, Dano’s Flynn Jr. plays beautifully against it and when Dano does eventually break, the confrontation is particularly difficult to watch.
Even though it features some excellent performances and a great story, Being Flynn isn’t without its faults most notably the pacing which leaves the film dragging through the second act when Jonathan comes into the shelter for the first time. There are some great stand alone scenes but the movie seems to come to a standstill the first times Jonathan and Nick meet at the shelter. It eventually picks up steam again but the lull took me out of the story and I found myself disconnected from the characters.
Being Flynn does pick up the pieces in the final act to deliver a poignant tale of survival for both father and son and ends on a surprisingly positive note with both men coming to an amicable relationship.
Being Flynn is available on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, July 10th.
DVD Extras: A six minute making of featurette titled “Being Flynn” which includes interviews with the author and director Paul Weitz.
Click “play” to see the trailer: