Being Flynn

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being flynn

I expect good performances from Paul Dano. I’m pleasantly surprised when De Niro does.

I didn’t have high hopes for this movie. Writer/producer/director Paul Weitz impressed me with About a Boy, but the last time he worked with Robert De Niro it was for Little Fockers.

I am glad I was pleasantly surprised by this story, based on the memoir of poet Nick Flynn. That was titled “Another Bulls**t Night in SuckCity,” which would’ve been a better title. The film could’ve had a number of better titles: Memoirs of a Moron (his words), Life is Gathering Material…the possibilities are endless. Being Flynn is a title that, when I see it on a shelf somewhere in 10 years, I won’t have a clue what it is.

Flynn is dealing with the death of his mother, played by Julianne Moore in flashbacks. She wasn’t given a lot to do, and I was fine with that. A scene where she reluctantly agrees to play catch with her boy, or tries to convince him she isn’t crying at breakfast, were powerful; and more than enough.

The last person Nick expects (or wants) to see is his dad, played by De Niro. Always nice when somebody calls you up to ask with help moving.

They meet sometime later when Nick takes a job at a homeless shelter his girlfriend works at. She’s played by Olivia Thirlby (Juno, Snow Angels). I enjoyed their boss, played by the full-blooded Cherokee actor Wes Studi. It’s nice to see him getting bigger parts than when I first saw him 20 years ago as the creepy Indian in the desert in The Doors.

I initially thought Paul Dano was miscast in this movie. His deer in headlights acting sometimes bugs me. I enjoyed the fact that he had a range of emotions in this and none over-the-top.

I thought it was interesting to have the dueling first-person narrative in the beginning, and it smartly stopped having us hear from De Niro as we watch his gradual decline.

It’s amazing to see De Niro in a good role. How long has it been? And when he gets cranky on film, is there anyone more fun to watch? It reminded me of the Cape Fear/Raging Bull scenes.

It was nice to see homeless shelter and drug therapy sessions in a film that actually looked realistic and not just filled with oddball characters for comic relief.

This movie was a lot more interesting then the one about poet Jim Carroll (The Basketball Diaries). I’m certainly interested now in seeking out Nick Flynn’s work. It was a pleasant surprise to see the talented Lili Taylor (the real-life wife of Flynn) working in the shelter.

And it was nice that Weitz reconnected with Badly Drawn Boy (Damon Gough). He provided the music for About a Boy, and it works well for the tone of this film.

The few contrivances in this didn’t bother me. I was just glad they didn’t take the Hollywood happy ending route, with some redemption for certain characters. It wasn’t needed and it isn’t always realistic.

After seeing this, I want to find an old strip club to move into. And read a book of Flynn’s poetry.

It gets 3 ½ stars out of 5.

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