By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Autobiographical tales of family disfunction and battling addiction are familiar enough material to most of us broken bastards that you need to James Frey them up a bit to catch our interest. When I saw the synopsis of Being Flynn I wasn’t terribly inspired to hunt it down. Honestly, if your “true” story can’t excite then inflame Oprah I’ll usually take a pass.
Being Flynn is based on true events of course and follows a young author who can’t get his shit together (Paul Dano) who finds himself working at a NYC homeless shelter where he eventually runs into his alcoholic, irascible self-proclaimed genius/absentee father (Robert DeNiro).
Well, turns out appearances can be deceiving. Sure, the themes are familiar, but the presentation sets this film apart. The director, Paul Weitz, takes the bold step of dual voiceover narrations, both father and son. Instead of just doubling what is usually wrong with the “tell, don’t show” voiceover technique, this ends up giving great insight by accentuating the unreliability of both narrators and the great divide between self-image and outside perception. Weitz heightens this even more with creative flashbacks and narrative transitions and the often disturbing juxtaposition of music and images.
Not this disturbing. Nothing is this disturbing.
They also use raw, dark humor to great effect, but what makes that work, and really deserves this toast, are the performances. Dano shows a slightly unhinged, Nic Cage-esque edge that I’ve never seen from him, and DeNiro, well, actually acts for once. He plays the unbalanced, bigoted old SOB with a passion we haven’t seen out of him for years. Also, Julianne Moore shines in a supporting role (as always), and lastly, Patty the Daytime Hooker makes an appearance.
Now, that’s a specific typecast
The one thing that kept bothering me throughout was the mystery of what exactly DeNiro’s damage was. Besides being just a general rat bastard, some of his actions seemed along the lines of some mental disorder like schizophrenia, but that’s never really addressed. Things like this are rarely cut and dried, but you think somebody would’ve at least brought up the possibility at some point…
This is a serious downer of a flick for the most part, but inventive filmmaking and storytelling coupled with some great acting make it well worth your time.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time DeNiro lets his son down
Take a Drink: any time someone (usually DeNiro) drinks
Drink a Shot: every time someone partakes in (non-alcoholic) self-destructive behavior