If Being Flynn should be known for anything it should be that it managed to bring out one of the best performances by Robert De Niro in recent years. Known for an endless amount of iconic characters in 70s film, among them Taxi Driver, The Deer Hunter and Raging Bull, De Niro has had a faded career in recent years. Being Flynn, a true story based on the memoir by Nick Flynn titled Another Bullsh*t Night in Suck City, stands as a comeback of sorts. And although it’s not the greatest film, with the greatest story, the performances are powerful and the message moving.
“America has produced only three classic writers – Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, and me.” These are the opening lines of Jonathan Flynn, a self-proclaimed genius writer and one of the most narcissistic, proud, bombastic, arrogant, wayward, pompous and self-absorbed characters you’ll ever come across in film. But while Jonathan, a convincing con man, narrates half the film, the other half is shared with his aspiring writer son Nick, a damaged and confused youth who still struggles with abandonment issues – His father left when he was still a boy and his mother committed suicide years later. Their lives cross paths when Nick is employed at a homeless shelter and Jonathan, after being evicted from his home, finds himself destitute. Of course Jonathan is too proud to even realize that he has hit rock bottom, and instead insists that he is there “to collect material” for his book. Nick’s life spirals out of control when he begins to believe that he too will end up like his mythomaniac father.
It’s the type of indie film that usually makes for good Oscar bait, unfortunately most of the elements just don’t line up quite right. We’re offered humour, despair, sadness, tragedy and a semi-rewarding conclusion, but its grizzly dark themes about self-destruction overwhelms its deeper father and son premise – the more fulfilling part of the story. Perhaps that’s the fault with Being Flynn – it takes on way too many subplots and ideas.
De Niro outshines the rest of the cast as Jonathan Flynn, often ranting and raving about the most random topics. This is De Niro at his finest and like we haven’t seen him in years – on his toes, delivering every line with passion and faith in a meaningful character. It’s an awful shame that the story didn’t focus primarily on his character. Jonathan is far more interesting than Nick.
Being Flynn is worth a watch, even if just once.