Thursday, March 22, 2012

Being Flynn

Based on the award winning memoir Good Lord, My Life Is A Crap-Fest, Being Flynn tells the tale of a rudderless 20-something who's plagued by guilt over his mother and stressed by his megalomaniacal father, who has suddenly reappeared in his life after a two decade absence.

The actual title of the source material is Another Bullshit Night in Suck City: A Memoir. I was trying to tone it down 'cause I run a family blog.

Anyway, the story features Paul Dano as Nick Flynn, who starts out...uh...you know, honestly, I don't remember. This is kind of logical consequence of the story. He's drifting. He's got a place, but he moves into a different one--oh, wait, that's right. The movie starts out with him cheating on his girlfriend and getting thrown out.

It's particularly unappealing. He's not a charming rogue, he's just an asshole. Sort of a half-hearted one, too. As if ennui were propelling him toward the only actions he is capable of, which aren't much.

But in the new place, he meets a new girl. A new, confusing girl. And then to add to the confusion, his father suddenly calls him after eighteen years because he needs help moving. He gets his new roommates (one black, one gay) to help him move his father. His racist, homophobic father, played well by Robert De Niro.

Actually, the racism and homophobia seemed kind of gratuitous to me. I mean, in the area of paternal suckitude, De Niro is such a major league sociopath, his prejudices seemed almost quaint by comparison.

This is a really dark movie, but it's not nihilistic. I think this is largely because family history is offered as exposition rather than explanation. One never gets the idea that Flynn expects to be forgiven for his transgressions merely because he had a (phenomenally) horrid childhood. And Nick is constantly being confronted—nay, dared—by his father to give a rat's ass about him.

This is a dark movie, as I said, but it's also comic. The movie actually opens with Nick's father Jonathan narrating that America has only produced three great writers: "Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger and me." Jonathan's self-assurance never wanes, and so the light chuckle at the beginning of the movie quickly turns to a guffaw and then a dark chortle and finally an almost sentimental sigh.

I sort of thought this would be a more whimsical movie, with Paul Weitz (American Pie, About A Boy) at the helm. But it's dark. Though I think the story is inherently affirming, I also think Weitz's touch keeps it from being even darker than it might've been.

Supporting cast includes Julianne Moore as Nick's mother and the adorable Olivia Thirby (Juno) as Nick's girlfriend. Lily Taylor was the other famous face I recognized and, while she's supposed to be on the way down in the movie (or shortly after), I actually thought she looked really good. Better than Julianne Moore. Go figger.

Obviously this sort of thing isn't for everyone. It's a decidedly adult film, though not containing a lot of sex (some), drug use (a little more) or violence (hardly any). Despite the words "family" and "fun" appearing in the phrase "family dysfunction", it's just not something to take the kids to.

'cause it's dark.

Did I mention that? If that doesn't bother you, it's worth the journey. The Boy and I both approved.

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