A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Being Flynn is based on Nick Flynn's memoir Another Bulls--t Night in Suck City and is a complicated, mature story about a father and son reunited under difficult circumstances. Much of the drama's material is weighty, including discussions about, and depictions of, homelessness, family estrangement, abandonment, jail time, and parental suicide, and may be too heavy for younger teens. Expect plenty of swearing (including "f--k," "s--t," and more) and sexual innuendoes, as well as some relatively tame sex scenes (groping, kissing, but no graphic nudity). One scene does show a naked male butt, and there's quite a bit of drinking (sometimes to excess) and drug use, including both pot and crack. Underneath it all, though, is a message of redemption.
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What's the story?
In this dramedy directed by Paul Weitz and inspired by author Nick Flynn's memoir Another Bulls--t Night in Suck City, it's not easy BEING FLYNN -- neither Jonathan (Robert De Niro), a taxi driver who's been working on his Great American Novel and is convinced he's the best there is, nor his son, Nick (Paul Dano), a promising writer with no life plan. Father and son haven't seen each other in nearly two decades, even after Nick's doting but melancholy mother (Julianne Moore) committed suicide. But after being evicted from his apartment, with no one to help him move his things, Jonathan calls Nick to ask for assistance. Nick helps, and Jonathan disappears once more -- only to show up at the homeless shelter where Nick works.
Is it any good?
One thing Being Flynn gets right: casting. With De Niro as Jonathan and Dano as Nick, the movie is steeped in strong performances that make up for many of its short list of ills. De Niro flexes his muscles and reminds us, with a portrayal marked by subtlety and grace and intensity (in all the right places), why he has long been considered one of the industry's best. The supporting cast is also iron strong. And the film's depiction of the homeless is suffused with empathy and effort rarely seen these days in Hollywood movies; there's no judgment.
It's also worth applauding Weitz's decision to tell the story through an interesting narrative lens, with voiceovers and perspectives from both Jonathan and Nick. At times, the film loses its balance because of this juggling act, but not often. What's unclear, however, is why Nick is so forgiving of Jonathan. Is he truly that generous, or is he simply unwilling to examine how he feels about the situation? While Jonathan feels fully formed, Nick is still an enigma, and that feels a bit like a loss.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Being Flynn's messages. Is it a positive story overall, or a negative one? Can Nick forgive his father?
The movie is based on a memoir; how accurate do you think it is to what happened to the writer in real life? Why might filmmakers (or the author himself, for that matter) have changed facts to tell the story?
How does Being Flynn compare to other movies in which parents reunite with their children? Does it add anything new to the genre?
- In theaters: March 2, 2012
- On DVD or streaming: July 10, 2012
- Cast: Julianne Moore, Olivia Thirlby, Paul Dano, Robert De Niro
- Director: Paul Weitz
- Studio: Focus Features
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Friendship
- Run time: 102 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language throughout, some sexual content, drug use, and brief nudity
- Last updated: March 16, 2020
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