If there’s one thing that most should get out of Being Flynn it’s director Paul Weitz‘s ability to wrangle a late-career best performance out of the fading Robert De Niro, while also contributing to the long list of successful performances by Paul Dano. Being Flynn isn’t a perfect film or even a really good one at that, but it is a performance driven character drama that has a universal message worthy of being told and worthy of being watched.
Nick Flynn (Paul Dano) is a struggling young writer that is currently in between life occupations. He’s a writer, but that doesn’t pay the bills or gain him any popularity. So, he takes a job at a local homeless shelter, where he meets a girl by the name of Denise (Olivia Thirlby), who guides him in the right direction by being a friend in tough times.
The reason times are so tough for Nick is because his mother (Julianne Moore) is no longer in his life and his father Jonathan (Robert De Niro) was never around much when he was a child. Nick is alone and he’s felt alone for the majority of his life. While working at the shelter he runs into his father, whether by fate or chance. Running into his father brings back the painful past as well as the hopeful future, as Nick learns the understanding of growing into your own person.
Being Flynn might look like typical indie Oscar bait or even a desperate last attempt at getting some sort of emotion out of star Robert De Niro, but it’s actually an approachable film that deals with addiction on a universal scale. Director Paul Weitz handles several forms of addiction in the film, using both De Niro and Dano to help paint the dark and grueling picture.
Dano’s character at one point gets mixed up with some harder drugs, while drifting closer and closer to his father’s own mistakes. De Niro spends most of the film as a homeless drunk who has no respect for anyone or anything. His Jonathan is clearly mentally ill with an attitude that’ll scare away just about anyone, but Dano’s Nick puts up with it because after all you’re only given one father and it’s up to you on how you treat him.
Weitz balances the relationship with lots of maturity and understanding. He knows that in order to fully understand Nick’s pain we have to see him at his all-time low and we also have to see him do a lot of interacting with his father, which is never an easy task. Weitz goes deep though and really establishes Nick’s uncertainty, by glimpsing at his past and correlating that to his present.
Some might find Being Flynn to be refreshingly honest and never afraid to go to those dark and nasty places that we’ve all been to, while others will call it a real downer of a film. I can’t disagree with either, because it’s a healthy mix of both. What you can take away from the film is the performances by Paul Dano and Robert De Niro.
Dano is expanding his dramatic horizons with an intimidating force that’s also kind of geeky. It’s a perfect mixture that Dano manages to gather from the characters troubled roots. De Niro is on the top of his game as Jonathan the drunk/homeless/crazy non-father figure that speaks his mind freely, even when he should just shut up. His performance is further proof that De Niro can act; he just needs the right project and the right motivation.
Being Flynn is still an under-the-radar independent that can be described as sometimes messy and misdirected, but only because Weitz is sticking so close to the source material, which was written by Nick Flynn. It’s not the most inspiring story though, so naturally you might come out disappointed with getting a taste of real life.
Universal’s 1080p encode captures the grimy homeless life with dark blue filters and appropriate grain. It’s a fairly clean transfer that I wouldn’t say pops out of the television set, but it does set the mood for the film by maintaining the colors strongly.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is your typical track for a dialogue-heavy drama. There’s not a lot of panning and dynamics, but there’s enough to keep you listening and focused.
The disc only comes with one short feature. Here’s a detailed description of it below:
- The Heart of Being Flynn (HD): The cast and crew discuss the film’s motives and underlying themes. Paul Dano, Robert De Niro and director Paul Weitz can been seen discussing the characters, the author of the book and staying true to the story while still creating something new for the screen. It’s a good little piece of background info, but not a whole lot when it comes to really sinking into the material from a behind-the-scenes perspective.
Being Flynn is an uncompromising human drama about a father and son relationship and how one must not follow in their family’s footsteps and instead make their own life. Paul Dano and Robert De Niro drive the film above the level of most dramas, but the source material is too anticlimactic to make for a fully engaging experience. It’s still worth a watch for the performances and direction, but one might want to consider a rental since the disc only comes with one short bonus feature.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.