Title: Being Flynn
Director/Writer: Paul Weitz
based on the book ANOTHER BULLSHIT NIGHT IN SUCK CITY
by Nick Flynn
Music: Badly Drawn Boy
Cinematography: Declan Quinn
Robert De Niro
Being a compulsive completist of Ms. Moore (or basically any other prolific thespians), one is destined to face some meh-worthy titles in her immense body of work, BEING FLYNN unfortunately fits that category.
Directed and written by Paul Weitz, the story is based on the true story of Nick Flynn (Dano), a young wannabe-writer works temporarily in a Boston shelter for homeless people, who is contracted by his father Jonathan Flynn (De Niro), for the first time after 18 years and later, Nick comes across him again in the shelter, Jonathan, a taxi driver and self-boasting poet and writer (in fact, he humbles himself to be just one of the three greatest American writers ever, guess who are the other two?), vexingly brags that he is float on the fringe of being discovered for his yet-to-be-finished novel, experiences a downward spiral in his recent life and is plunged into the abyss of vagrancy.
A platitudinous plot of father-son’s from-bitter-to-sweet reconciliation will duly pans out after their unplanned reunion, but before that, Weitz promisingly juggles with two paralleled narrations from Jonathan and Nick separately with considerable verve. Both contend to be the more proficient raconteur, Jonathan is the apposite reimagination of what will happens to Travis Bickle after TAXI DRIVER (1976), still a cabbie in his twilight year, ever so discontented, prejudiced and delusional. And Nick, seems to be stuck in a limbo reckoning with his future and relationships, who attempts a casual relationship with his co-worker Denise (Thirlby, whom by the way, seems utterly uninterested in their romance) after cheating from his air-hostess girlfriend (a cameo from Waterston), and is unable to pull himself together from his fond memories of his late mother Jody (Moore, underused in her single-mother cliché with subtle frustration and taedium vitae gnawing underneath her calm facade, it is a sheer crime that she doesn’t share any scenes with De Niro! What are you thinking, Mr. Weitz?) and an oscillating resolution to shut Jonathan completely out of his life.
As thrilling as to see De Niro return in the driver’s seat with unabated fervour (one of his most committed work in ages) and he even delivers another bombast in front of a mirror as a patent homage, woefully one finds his Jonathan comes off as overbearing, insufferable and nuances are extremely wanting, a radical, sexist, homophobic, racist, family-deserter, coward, egoist, it is a clumsy tactic to make him that abhorrent and hope empathy will smoothly ensue later. Granted, it seems courageous for Flynn to insist on an unadorned depiction of his’s own father (since this kind of character does exist, everywhere), it is ups to Weitz that a certain dramatic license is required to smooth Jonathan’s edges, not at the least because eventually, it is all about a heartwarming and hard-earned second chance of a long-lost family bond, in lieu of a justified broadside against an irresponsible father and an incorrigible daydreamer.
Dano looks quite self-conscious in scenes shared with De Niro, but excels in rendering Nick’s dithering frame-of-mind towards his personal dilemma. The depiction of the working conditions in a shelter dealing with hobos is both minutely re-enacted and consciously sanitised, dark corners are left undisclosed, lest it will avert many a fastidious viewer, that can be regarded as an encapsulation of the film as a whole, a character study could go digging into something more contentious and darker (for example, what is Jonathan’s attitude about his abandonment? He never betrays anything even remotely contrite in front of his son), that’s why the end result is neither consistently exciting nor awfully mawkish, nondescript seems to be the right word I’m searching for here.