Entertainment Movies
Entertainment Entertainment Movies

'Being Flynn' review: A chip off the old, miserable block

**1/2 (out of four)

I’m not faulting Paul Dano for being one of the less (to put it nicely) screen-friendly presences in Hollywood. I am faulting “Being Flynn” for shoving Denise (Olivia Thirlby, excellent), a cute and extremely stable employee of a homeless shelter, into bed with Nick (Dano), an aimless, odd-looking bummer.

Otherwise, the movie, written and directed by Paul Weitz (“About a Boy”) and adapted from Nick Flynn’s memoir “Another Bullshit Night in Suck City,” seeks little sympathy. No review of “Being Flynn” can do without the word bleak, as Nick’s already fragile state—his mom (Julianne Moore) committed suicide and he hasn’t seen his father Jonathan (Robert De Niro) in 18 years—wobbles even further when Nick takes a job at the homeless shelter and Jonathan turns up as a guest.

Jonathan’s been delusional for a long time; as the film opens he claims, “Everything I write is a masterpiece,” putting himself in the company of Twain and Salinger and focusing only on the thin compliments written at the beginning of publishers’ rejection letters. Nick wants to be a writer but fears becoming his father, a man who returns no more stable than he was when he left.

In parts, “Being Flynn” aches with the tragedy of a family doomed to repeat its mistakes. Weitz presents Nick’s rotating roster of men to play catch with as a kid, all weak substitutes for a dad that never taught him anything productive. Dano’s not as subtly expressive as Anton Yelchin, who better demonstrated the goal of distancing his behavior from an unsatisfactory parent in “The Beaver.” And De Niro’s most substantial character in a while still doesn’t feel fully processed. Clearly Jonathan suffers from some sort of mental illness, but “Being Flynn” stops short of examining Jonathan’s condition and treatment while skipping through Nick’s downward spiral.

It makes this personal story of two self-indulgent men and their hiccupping attempts to escape themselves function decently as “About a Family,” but without properly exploring the dad and son individually.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:30 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com. @mattpais


Copyright © 2015, RedEye
Related Content
  • Yep, I took my dad to Lollapalooza

    I suppose I should be old enough to know by now that something doesn't become un-cool just because your parent is there.

  • Lollapalooza style portraits

    Lollapalooza style portraits

    Concertgoers pose at the three-day fest in Grant Park.

  • Lolla day 2: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 2: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    And just like that, there’s only one day left of Lolla. Here’s what stood out to us from day 2. Best: The Tallest Man on Earth: Maybe it was just a right-mood, right-set situation, but boy this was the perfect mid-day act to take a breather, sit in the sun, and just chill and listen to and enjoy....

  • 50 Cent at Parliament and Wyclef Jean at The Underground

    50 Cent at Parliament and Wyclef Jean at The Underground

    Shots in The Dark at Parliament Nightclub with 50 Cent and The Underground Nightclub with Wyclef Jean and Joey Fatone July 31st

  • Lolla day 1: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    Lolla day 1: Best and worst, plus superlatives

    One day down! Here’s the best and worst we saw at Lolla on Friday, plus a few superlatives from day 1. Best: Anyone who knows me knows I was bound to pick Paul McCartney as my favorite act of the day. The Beatle came out and gave it his all with more than two hours of hits, tributes and jokes about...

  • Lolla day 1: Let's just rename it Paul-apalooza

    Lolla day 1: Let's just rename it Paul-apalooza

    What can you really say about Sir Paul McCartney, the former Beatle, pop music pioneer, worldwide cultural icon, and all-around great guy, that hasn't already been said? I mean, seriously. With the Beatles changing music for the better, becoming a pop culture institution and being "more popular...