Film Capsule: Being Flynn

So here’s the pitch: Robert De Niro plays a defiant, unraveling New York City taxi driver who is given to fits of self-righteousness and rage.

Sounds like a pretty failsafe premise, no?

Well, at least that’s half the premise.  

You see, the taxi driver in Being Flynn is also prodigal father to an orphaned son, played by a very severe-looking (and acting) Paul Dano. The story, which is based upon Nick Flynn’s best-selling novel, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, is told from dual perspectives – that of the misguided father, and his ill-begotten son.

As is so often the case in situations like these, the two stories meet somewhere in the middle – and what a grim, unforgiving middle it is.

While it may be uplifting to assume Robert De Niro has now finally entered the Jeff-Bridges phase of his career, leaving behind a trilogy of Focker films, as well as a downright mind-boggling turn in Stanley Harris’s New Year’s Eve, the reality is Being Flynn runs so deep and dark, it’s difficult to walk out of the theater feeling anything but down.

And that’s a testament to just how much De Niro commits to this role, disappearing beneath layers of grit and contempt so vexing, he forces you to despise the character without hating the film, which is quite a feat, given the circumstances.

This is the iconic De Niro of old – the one whose performances were so sublime you often needed to remind yourself there was a real-life actor hiding in there somewhere. Dano does his best to keep up, but he’s severely outmatched here, much like he was a few years back in Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood.

That’s not really a knock on Dano, so much as it is a tribute to the elite company he’s been keeping as of late.

Anyway, the bottom line is this: If you are considering going to see Flynn, do it for the De Niro factor. I mean, Dano is OK, for sure. And Julianne Moore is fantastic, as usual, in an understated role as the boy’s single mother. But they’re both playing second fiddle to De Niro’s virtuoso, which is pretty much the way it’s always been … and, with any luck, the way it will invariably continue to be.

(Being Flynn arrives in limited release in NYC and LA as of today, with a national rollout to follow)