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Flynn! If a movie stars Paul Dano, Robert De Niro, and Julianne Moore, then you should certainly expect it to feature phenomenal acting. Being Flynn doesn’t disappoint. As well as above-average performances, the writing is also top-notch with so many quotable lines—mostly from De Niro’s character.

The delusions of grandeur are evident in the introduction…

“America has produced only three classic writers: Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger and me. I’m Jonathan Flynn. Everything I write is a masterpiece. And soon, very soon, I shall be known.” — Jonathan Flynn

Paul Weitz directed Being Flynn and wrote the screenplay based on the memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, by Nick Flynn. The story is simple. Nick works at a homeless shelter where his long-lost father (Jonathan) ends up staying after spending weeks on the cold streets.

Being Flynn is dreadfully depressing. Naturally, the pacing is also slow and methodical.

Since Nick is an aspiring writer and Jonathan proclaims everything he writes to be a masterpiece, this movie involves a lot of narration from Nick and Jonathan talking inside their own heads. At the very beginning, Paul Dano and Robert De Niro trade-off with dueling narrations. De Niro’s character delivers the delightful line, “Don’t worry. You’re back. Back in the hands of a master storyteller.”

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That one early remark tells you everything you need to know about Jonathan Flynn.

De Niro’s character revels in being a dismissive, narcissistic prick.

The dynamic of the troubled father-son relationship between Paul Dano (as Nick Flynn) and Robert De Niro (as Jonathan Flynn) feels genuinely believable. Give De Niro credit for that. Although he’s pretty much a despicable human being, you still manage to like Jonathan Flynn because of De Niro’s undeniable charm. It’s impressive to see an engaging performance from De Niro. When was the last surprising performance from De Niro in the past decade? When you don’t see something for so long, you start to question whether that type of performance is still achievable. The range on display by De Niro in Being Flynn will serve as a reminder as to why he’s one of the best actors ever.

I want more of this De Niro before the old coot kicks the bucket.

As much as I love De Niro, the blood pumping through the heart of this movie is Paul Dano. Nick Flynn isn’t necessarily a likeable character, but Dano captures the essence and angst of someone struggling to find a purpose. It’s unfortunate that Paul Dano perpetually looks like a meek, mild-mannered teenager. Eventually, people will realize Paul Dano is one of our finest young actors.

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While Nick Flynn is trying to make meaning out of his life, he uses writing as a way to express himself and release his emotions. It made my skin crawl to listen to Nick read his writing with such self-satisfaction. It’s an amazing lack of awareness that so many people have about themselves. I’ve had people tell me they enjoy my writing or art. But I’ll never believe them. Compliments never make me feel comfortable. Instead, my brain will find some flaw to try to negate the positive.

Things seem to be getting on the right track for Nick when he starts working at Harbor House—a men’s homeless shelter. However, that facade quickly crumbles when his father, Jonathan, enters the picture as a resident in need of a bed. Learning his absentee father is circling the drain leads Nick down a path of drugs and alcohol to escape. Jonathan causes daily disruptions at the homeless shelter, and he just generally wreaks havoc wherever he goes because he only seems to care about himself.

Unfortunately, these types of explosive people actually exist in real life. They are toxic.

How do you deal with them when it is someone in your own family?

julianne-moore

Although Dano and De Niro are the stars—along with Julianne Moore, in her limited screen time shown in flashbacks as Nick’s mother—Being Flynn employs a surprisingly good supporting cast. Olivia Thirlby is a strong pillar of support as Denise, the love interest and close friend of Nick. Thomas Middleditch and Chris Chalk help break up the monotony as Nick’s roomates (Richard and Ivan, respectively). Even Wes Studi is enjoyable as the stoic Captain of Harbor House. It’s a very small detail, but I fucking loved when he turns his chair to sit backwards in the classic “teacher trying to look cool and hip” pose.

I found a lot to enjoy about Being Flynn over several viewings. When I find a well-written, well-acted film, I like to savor it. Being Flynn isn’t as good of a two-man show as There Will Be Blood (also co-starring Paul Dano), but this movie is much more palatable for a broader audience.

Being Flynn is hardly the first movie to focus on homelessness. It’s a relatable topic and a realistic day-to-day fear for too many in this country who live paycheck-to-paycheck. However, most movies of this ilk don’t have the same amount of dark fun with this type of depressing subject.

Luckily, Being Flynn never stays dull and dreary for too long. Director and screenplay writer Paul Weitz knew when to pull the plane out of a nosedive at the right time. Basically, Robert De Niro took the reigns to say something stupid and racist. It was fun mocking his bigoted idiocy.

This is another movie I will fight you over if you don’t like it. Flynn!

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4.5 out of 5 stars

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