If only Being Flynn was as edgy as the title of its source material: Nick Flynn's memoir "Another Bullshit Night in Suck City." That's not to say it doesn't try, and Robert De Niro is finally allowed to act again after several years of phoning it in. Paul Weitz directs, and Paul Dano stars as a struggling New York City writer who takes a job at a homeless shelter and encounters his absentee father. De Niro is the patriarch; also a writer, a drunk and probably mentally ill, and is convinced he is one of America's best authors. Being Flynn lets De Niro run with his character, and Dano hustles to keep up. The back-and-forth between father and son borders on irritating, but at least Being Flynn has something interesting to say.
Nick Flynn (Dano) can't land a paying job, and his girlfriend dumps him for being a waste of energy. Out of the blue, Nick gets a call from Jonathan Flynn (De Niro), the father he hasn't seen in years, who demands that Nick come help him move out of his apartment. Jonathan is evicted for beating up his noisy neighbor, and speaks to Nick without acknowledging his extended absence. Nick eventually gets a job at a homeless shelter thanks to his friend Denise (Olivia Thirlby), and is shocked when Jonathan starts sleeping among the other residents. Jonathan rants about being a great author, and swears his book "Memoirs of a Moron" rivals Faulkner and Salinger. Nick decides to acknowledge Jonathan when he realizes that he and his father share some of the same demons.
De Niro plays a good crazy (see Taxi Driver), and his Jonathan Flynn is quite a character. Prone to manic rambling and boasts, and severely lacking a social filter, Jonathan is kicked out of the shelter for fighting and excessive drinking. Nick's life goes downhill, too, and he starts boozing and using, and Denise tells him to get help. Jonathan is forced to sleep on the streets, and calls Nick a coward for allowing the shelter to ban him. Nick recalls the words of his loving mother (Julianne Moore), who recently committed suicide, and realizes he and Jonathan share common threads of addiction, anger and disillusionment.
Being Flynn is a much stronger project than the last Weitz/De Niro collaboration, Little Fockers, but doesn't quite come together as a cohesive whole. It's never clear what Nick really wants out of life, and the ending feels trite, since it takes Jonathan off the streets and places him back into normal society despite hinting that Jonathan's psyche is completely broken. Jonathan's ramblings and Nick's self-loathing get under the skin, and at times I just wanted the pair to find peace. Even so, Being Flynn is worth watching for De Niro's return to real acting alone.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is appropriately crisp, with nice detail and texture. Colors are muted but well saturated, highlights are intentionally bright, and black levels are solid. There is a nice layer of grain in the image, and the transfer displays the gritty New York City locations with ease. There are no problems with noise reduction or artificial sharpening.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack deftly recreates the dialogue, which is well balanced and clear. Heated arguments never feed back, and the track features its share of directional dialogue. Ambient effects and score are nicely presented, and the surrounds are put to a fair amount of use considering that this film is a drama. A Spanish 5.1 DTS track is also available, as are English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles.
Other than a BD-Live Portal and the My Scenes Bookmarking feature, the only extra is The Heart of Being Flynn (6:04/HD), a disappointingly short and scattershot making-of piece.
This adaptation of Nick Flynn's memoir about his work at a New York City homeless shelter and encounters with his long-absent father is uneven, but Robert De Niro returns to real acting as the rambling, self-proclaimed genius author and returned patriarch. Paul Dano plays the younger Flynn, who realizes he shares more with his father than a last name. Rent It.
William lives in Raleigh, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.