Directed by: Paul Weitz Cast: Paul Dano, Robert De Niro, Olivia Thirlby Running Time: 1 hr 42 mins Rating: R Release Date: March 9, 2012
PLOT: A young writer named Nick Flynn (Dano) starts working at a homeless shelter, and writes about his experience. His distant wannabe writer father Jonathan (De Niro) turns up at the shelter one night as a guest. Based on the memoir "Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City" written by Nick Flynn.
WHO'S IT FOR?: Fans of De Niro will be happy to see him truly "working" again. If you like stories about writers, it's likely you haven't seen this type before (unless you've read Flynn's book).
Being Flynn paints a full picture of the downward spiral that leads to homelessness, using the tale of Jonathan Flynn as its primary example. For those who only understand homelessness in passing, this film offers striking observations about that world, both from Jonathan's perspective and shelter worker Nick's perspective. It's a movie that wants to create awareness about the vulnerable subject. It doesn't turn into a crusade to persuade viewers to reconsider their passing knowledge of homelessness (De Niro's character isn't seen begging in the movie).
Most poignantly, Being Flynn discusses what it is like to write, and how the works of such writers can be influenced. It believes in the power of writers, but ironically doesn't seem to empower them. For example, Jonathan's voiceovers contradict his reality. Neither the father nor son ever appear to be glorified by whatever material they have produced.
Robert De Niro offers one of his best performances in years as Jonathan Flynn, the New York cab driver and determined writer who spirals down into homelessness. His portrayal doesn't feel hammy, despite the scenes that require for De Niro to play crazy. He's able to do it earnestly, and show Jonathan as a passionate person most of all. Even if that passion was only himself.
Not many people could possibly keep up with De Niro, which is probably why Paul Dano was cast. Having previously gone toe-to-toe with Daniel Day Lewis for There Will Be Blood, Dano now has unique chemistry with De Niro, even if the physical resemblance between the two is scarce. Especially as the movie presents their paths as aesthetically parallel, Being Flynn is able to capture the father/son relationship at the center of this unique story. As it keenly observes how our parents influence our own passions, Being Flynn feels like a darker version of the previously Oscar-winning film Beginners. De Niro is not going to be pulling a Christopher Plummer for his challenging role, but it's a performance worth witnessing.
FINAL SCORE: 7/10