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Being Flynn | Review

Another Bullshit Title Change In Watered Down Indie Film

The Weitz brothers are a curious pair of filmmakers. Each have directed and/or written critically successful films as well as notorious stinkers. In the case of Paul Weitz, writer of Nutty Professor II: The Klumps (2000) and director of Little Fockers (2010), his best effort still ranks as About a Boy (2002), an adaptation of a Nick Hornby novel. Odds seemed in Weitz’s favor for his latest effort, Being Flynn, based on the 2004 memoir by Nick Flynn, Another Bullshit Night In Suck City. Unfortunately, this is one adaptation that doesn’t quite make a successful transition to the silver screen, and that’s for a few reasons. While at least the book title wasn’t subject to the deadening censorship of film and media, the original source is bound to be a much better read than its celluloid counterpart plays as a film.

Paul Dano stars as Nick Flynn, an angst ridden aspiring writer, who has recently lost his mother (Julianne Moore) to suicide. After cheating on his girlfriend, Nick is finally on hiw own, and rents a space in an old stip joint inhabited by a pointedly effeminate white gay man and a mild mannered black drug dealer. They find Nick a perfect fit as he has no family, his mother deceased and his father estranged for some eighteen years. Oddly, Nick has just begun to write an imaginary portrait of his absent father, a taxi driving Jonathan Flynn (Robert De Niro—it all comes full circle), a disillusioned author that instilled the dream of authorhood in Nick when he was a young boy. And before you know it, the real life estranged taxi driving father suddenly reaches out to his son, having recently been evicted for violent behavior towards his noisy neighbors.

A curious Nick helps his father move things into storage before dad promptly goes his own way again. As the narrative diverges, we watch the lost boy Nick meet a pixie hipster girl (Olivia Thirlby), who falls into a relationship with him and convinces him to work alongside her at a homeless shelter. There, we meet a bevy of characters among Nick’s coworkers, including a kind and proud boss (Wes Studi) and ex-drug addict Joy (Lili Taylor). Meanwhile, Nick’s father, who has been living out of his taxi, suddenly loses his livelihood in an accident, and is forced to live on the streets in the dead of Boston winter, and eventually makes his way to the homeless shelter where he discovers his son working. As Jonathan’s mental state causes quite a disturbance in the shelter, he is asked to leave, forcing Nick to make some adult decisions about his own life, including fighting his own drug and alcohol addictions.

Despite the obvious predictability of the glossy proceedings, Being Flynn manages to have some quiet moments of pathos with the grim subject matter of the homeless. However, any of these moments are quickly dissipated by the bludgeoning presence of Robert De Niro. A racist, homophobic headcase, every rant feels like a forced exercise in the process of daring to care for such a woebegone loser. But rather than feel anything for the character of Jonathan Flynn, one can’t get beyond the hilarity of De Niro’s hamfisted performance. While Paul Dano does his best (though he often seems to be ‘doing his best’ as an angsty, soft spoken protagonist, whether or not he’s alongside wizened, award winning artists in sub-par fare like a similarly flat exercise with Kevin Kline in The Extra Man, 2010) he never rises above being a cipher of indie film angst.

The usually reliable Julianne Moore isn’t given much to do but be a good mom who’s really sad about her life (a role she’s definitely no stranger to). Strangely, for being set in Boston, no one has a Boston accent, which is interesting to note because Moore certainly lays that accent on thick for her guest appearances on “30 Rock.” But worst of all, Weitz manages to take a memoir and pare it down into one boring, downtrodden look at drug addiction, suicide, child abandonment, and homelessness, spinning a yarn that only asks you to be more apathetic about his characters than he is. Being Flynn is being bored.

Rating 1.5 stars

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Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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