Robert De Niro is known by many as one of the greatest actors of all time, however, many people have also questioned his choices in movies he’s chosen to partake in, especially the last 15 years or so.. While he’s certainly had more misses than hits recently, De Niro is still one of the best actors in Hollywood when the right project comes along – and his work in Being Flynn proves it.
Being Flynn is a touching, powerful movie that explores the relationship and bond between parent and child, and how both parties affect the lives of the other in more ways than they may realize. While we can’t pick our parents, or family, we can choose how we treat them, or learn from them as life goes on. This is a lesson that Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) must learn the hard way, as nothing has ever come easy for him in life. Growing up without a father, it was up to Nick’s mother (Julianne Moore) to do her best and raise him on her own.
You see, Nick’s father Jonathan (Robert De Niro) isn’t an ordinary guy. In his own words, he’s one of just three classic writers that America has produced (his equals, in his mind at least, are Mark Twain and J.D. Salinger) and one day soon, his novel will be published and the whole world will see how great he truly is. The truth, of course, is that Jonathan lives in a world in his own head, while also dabbling in reality long enough to get through the day to day. After a few missteps cause him to become homeless, he finally touches base with his son with whom he hasn’t spoken to in almost two decades, and asks Nick if he could help him move out of the apartment he’s being evicted from.
Nick is also having trouble finding himself, and even though he grew up knowing his father had been in prison, and didn’t make any effort to be involved in his life, he still has the urge to be a writer – just like his dad. Of course, writing doesn’t pay the bills if you’ve yet to publish anything, so Nick gets a job at a homeless shelter, where he begins to discover himself; however, things take a drastic turn when Jonathan shows up at the shelter one evening looking for a bed. While Nick struggles to get his life on track, he begins to realize that his father’s is derailing more and more by the day. With barely enough strength to fight his own personal battles, an already fractured bond between father and son will be put to the test, as Nick tries to figure out what’s best for himself, while also debating whether or not his father fits in to his future plans.
The film is based off the award-winning memoir “Another Bulls**t Night in Suck City” by Nick Flynn, and it’s a project that writer/director Paul Weitz had been working on for seven years before it was finally made. Weitz is no stranger to creating moving films that touch the heart, as he (along with his brother Chris and Peter Hedges) wrote one of my favourite films, About a Boy, which he also directed alongside his brother Chris. This time, however, Paul is on his own, and he does a truly magnificent job of capturing the true emotions of the characters and passing them along to the audience. There’s rarely a moment that goes by when the film isn’t completely engrossing, and while the characters may not always be the most likable, Weitz has made it so that no matter what they do, when it comes right down to it, the audience still cares about what happens to them.
Also, Weitz has a great ear for music that really helps drive his story home, and just like he did in About a Boy, Weitz sticks with just one musician (the same one, in fact) for the entire soundtrack. The music of Damon Gough is soft, and blends in perfectly with the films themes. Not only does it fit perfectly wherever it’s played, but it also helps deliver the emotions the characters are feeling into the ears of the audience, and it does so in a beautifully subtle, yet effective way.
Dano, who plays Nick, was able to make the character his own, while also talking with the real life Flynn, who served as a consultant on the film in order to make sure that all the facts were straight. Dano plays the part remarkably well, and he’s able to hold his own against both Moore and De Niro, which is no small feat considering the amount of A-game both those actors bring to the table.
Let’s start with Moore, who plays the role of Nick’s mother through flashbacks. The story is being narrated by both Nick and Jonathan, depending on who’s perspective we’re watching at the time, and it’s mostly during Nick’s narration that we get to witness the fabulous work of Moore. She adds a great deal of layers to a part that could have easily been written in by a lesser actress, which helps make the back stories of both Nick and Jonathan that much deeper and emotionally impactful.
Now, let’s move on to De Niro, who very likely won’t, but could easily be considered for various Best Supporting Actor statues come awards season for his work here. He’s superb, and he helps bring to life a true character that also becomes one of his best pieces of work in a very long time. While the rest of the cast do a wonderful job, and the story is great no matter what angle you look at it from, there’s no denying that the movie gets that much better each and every time De Niro is on the screen.
Being Flynn never had a major release, so odds are most people have never heard of it. Add on De Niro’s recent track record, and many may feel that this isn’t a film work taking a chance on. However, I urge you to take a chance on this, and watch a film that’s as touching as it is well made, as well as a tour de force performance by a man who proves he’s still got what it takes to be one of the best.
The audio/video transfer of the film is solid through and through. The visuals are crisp and the tone of is very cool and neutral throughout most of the film, to coincide with the themes presented. The audio works well, and the dialogue comes through without distortion or any muffled noise.
The Heart of Being Flynn – There’s only one small featurette on the disc, and that’s a six minute piece that sees writer/director Pete Weitz talk about how long he’d been working on the adaptation of the memoir, to the casting involved in order to do the characters justice, and so forth. It’s short and sweet, and while it would have been nice to delve a little more into the process, it’s nice to get a bit of inside information, even if it did come in such a small package.
Being Flynn is a great film, with strong performances by all involved, and a touching, heartfelt story that keeps things interesting from start to finish. While all involved showcase great talent, it’s Robert De Niro who really steals the show, and this is really a must see for those who may have lost faith in his ability to act as of late, because he definitely proves that theory wrong.
Focus Features presents Being Flynn. Written & Directed by: Paul Weitz. Starring: Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, Julianne Moore. Running time: 102 minutes. Rating: 14A. Released on DVD: June 10, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.