Being Flynn: movie review

The film, in which Robert De Niro comes across as a Method caricature, is a mix of genuinely touching and hokey moments.

David Lee/HONS/Focus Features/AP
Paul Dano (l.) comes off as restrained in 'Being Flynn' in contrast to Robert De Niro's scenery-chewing.

In “Being Flynn,” based on Nick Flynn’s 2004 memoir, a dissolute, delusional ex-con father, Jonathan Flynn (Robert De Niro), and his son Nick (Paul Dano), an aspiring writer struggling with drug addiction, meet up accidentally after an 18-year separation in the homeless shelter where Nick is working.

After years of appearing in marginal roles in marginal (if sometimes highly commercial) movies, De Niro finally has a role he can sink his teeth into, but all those years of hamming it up have taken their toll. Even though this is the best sustained work he’s done in a long time, he still comes across as more of a Method caricature than a full-fledged flesh-and-blood creation.

Dano is still doing his ethereal, creepy underacting routine, but, compared with De Niro’s scenery chewing, he seems almost dignified. The film, written and directed by Paul Weitz, has many touching moments and many more hokey ones. Grade: B (Rated R for language throughout, some sexual content, drug use, and brief nudity.)

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.