Movies: Being Flynn

It's no storybook reunion when Nick Flynn (Paul Dano, left) meets his father Jonathan (Robert DeNiro)
after 18 years of estrangement.
Photo: David Lee, Focus Features

J.D. Salinger, Mark Twain and Jonathan Flynn are the greatest writers in American literature. At least, they are according to Jonathan Flynn, who shares this information in a voice-over as he gets in his Manhattan taxicab to begin his day’s work in Being Flynn. What is noteworthy about this is that the taxi driver in question is Robert DeNiro.

Yes, Robert DeNiro is back. Most often seen lately in lightweight stuff like the Meet The Parents films and, in essence, playing himself in Limitless, DeNiro here is a father estranged from his son and chasing fame as a writer.

For audience members who aren’t old enough to recall the towering actor DeNiro was in Raging Bull, Casino, Goodfellas and all those other films that made him an acting icon, Being Flynn is a good example of his art.

Jonathan drinks vodka and orange juice as if he were drinking water, is angry and seriously deluded. He rants. He raves. He cares.

The son in question, Nick Flynn (Paul Dano), also wants to be a writer but finds his progress blocked by the suicide of his mother Jody (Julianne Moore) and his need to earn a living.

This movie is based on the real Nick Flynn’s memoir, Another B***S*** Night In Suck City. And, although the book is set in Boston, the film has moved to New York where Nick gets job in a homeless shelter for men. And guess who turns up as one of the clients?

Nick is also trying to make a go of things with his girlfriend Denise (Olivia Thirlby), who got him the job in the shelter that is run by a man called Captain (Wes Studi) and where Nick’s friend Joy (Lili Taylor) also works.

Co-writer and director Paul Weitz — known mostly for lightweight stuff like the last Fockers film, About A Boy and American Pie — here is deft at letting his actors develop their characters. Dano gives a performance equal to that of DeNiro. There are no mushy, saccharine scenes of reunion or overt, obvious demonstrations of filial love. The two Flynns — as is appropriate — never quite meet in the middle.

That sort of up-in-the-air ambivalent ending is absolutely suitable in this film in which Dano — best known until now in Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood — comes into his own as an accomplished, interesting actor. He may well be the Robert DeNiro of his generation.

Being Flynn is only showing at the Regal Village Square, another reason why movie loves in Las Vegas should either move west or enjoy the drive west when the reward is a good, interesting movie.