Muddled Being Flynn Bypasses God
- Tuesday, March 13, 2012
DVD Release Date: July 10, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: March 9, 2012 (limited)
Rating: R (for language throughout, some sexual content, drug use, and brief nudity)
Run Time: 102 min.
Director: Paul Weitz
Cast: Robert De Niro, Paul Dano, Julianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby, Wes Studi, Lili Taylor, Victor Rasuk, Eddie Rouse, Steve Cirbus
You’ve probably seen the bumper sticker with the sentiment: “Please be patient. God’s not finished with me yet.” It’s a nice idea, that sanctification is a lifelong process, and we all stumble along the way, dependent on God’s grace.
Being Flynn, starring Robert De Niro (New Year's Eve) and Paul Dano (Cowboys & Aliens) and directed by Paul Weitz (American Pie), has a similar idea with its tagline: “We’re all works in progress.” But the film has no notion of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, which means it’s not very convincing as a story of human betterment and emotional healing. The film also fails as a work of adaptation. Based on Nick Flynn’s book Another Bull---t Night in Suck City, Being Flynn fails to coherently juggle its different character viewpoints, giving the storytelling a herky-jerky quality that keeps viewers from settling into the material and engaging the characters on a deep level.
Nick (Paul Dano) is a struggling writer with a fondness for alcohol but a difficulty in connecting with people. He’s unemployed, leaning on the goodwill of new roommates and a new girlfriend (Olivia Thirlby, No Strings Attached) to sustain his purposeless life. He’s never had much of a guiding light in his life: His father, Jonathan (Robert De Niro), was in prison for most of Nick’s childhood, and his mother (Julianne Moore, Crazy Stupid Love) held down multiple jobs to provide for Nick. Her parade of boyfriends never made much of a connection with Nick, who was left alone after his mother committed suicide.
If that doesn’t strike you as a pleasant-sounding story, just wait. It gets worse. Jonathan, who fancies himself a masterful writer just waiting to be discovered, drives a cab, sleeps with the occasional fare and acts on his worst impulses when things don’t go his way.
Jonathan is self-destructive, maybe mentally ill, and yet his motto is worth heeding: “We were put on this earth to help each other.” Why does he believe that? Where did he embrace that idea? He doesn’t seem to live it. But it’s something the aimless Nick needs to hear, and when Jonathan, evicted from his home, ends up at the homeless shelter where Nick has found work, the son has a chance to extend his father’s philosophy to the man who taught it to him.
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