Being Flynn

Being Flynn is disposable filmmaking at its best. Here’s a relatively thought-provoking movie with a solid story and good acting that you’ll only walk away from easily forgetting. It’s in the same vein as the many other heavy family dramas of late, like Descendants. Why these movies gain so much acclaim is beyond me, as they are not necessarily amazing films, they are just pretty good films and have stories which people seem to be able to identify with – if not at least because they’re trying to escape similar situations in their own lives.

What’s funny is, there are millions of stories like this one and probably even better ones at that, and yet somehow this one becomes the fortunate one to survive the rest of the new age, sensitive and dramatic drivel out there. When I saw this film it was an advance screening and presented by none other than the former head of Sundance (now head of Tribeca), Geoffrey Gilmore. In the intro for the movie, Mr. Gilmore proclaimed that he sees a lot of films and it’s the ones that are different or unique that will make it in this present day “disruption” of filmmaking which we’re in (you know, day and date releases, video-on-demand, etc.), because it’s the unique films that will stand out. However, he directly works against his own statements by having hand selected this film for a special advance screening, because unfortunately this film is immediately forgettable and disposable despite its De Niro centerpiece and selling point.

Helmed by director Paul Weitz who you make recognize from earlier fare such as American Pie, there are little moments within this film that you can really hold on to and take with you once you leave the theater. You may crack a laugh, maybe even a smile, probably even feel really bad for Paul Dano’s character, Nick Flynn, at some point, but you’ll never truly care deep down.

There’s no way or chance even to emotionally invest in any of these characters. Yeah, Nick Flynn has a sad backstory, but what’s his deranged/eccentric father’s backstory? What’s his mother’s backstory? Filmicly (dramatically, that is), his mother (played lackadaisically by Julianne Moore here – shocking and disappointing), kills herself in the most unaffecting suicide scene I’ve ever seen in a film – and I’ve seen a lot of suicide scenes in films, because every filmmaker likes a good suicide scene.

It’s almost as if the director Weitz was afraid to do anything too painful with the scene because as he explained it in the Q&A afterwards, the real Nick Flynn (who wrote the memoir this film is based on, appropriately called Another Bullshit Night in Suck City), was on set with him that day as they shot the scene.

The worst part of the whole experience of this person’s life for me was a combination of De Niro’s overwrought performance as the eccentric and egocentric writer Jonathan Flynn and the way Weitz (and maybe the screenwriters?) decided they were tired of this movie now and had better wrap it up quickly at the end. I mean literally, Being Flynn does a 180 on you about ¾ of the way through and ties up everyone’s life in a nice easily digestible package. I can’t believe it could have happened so neatly and succintly in real life, so chalk that spin up to the Hollywood filmmaking formula.

Unfortunately suppressed in his performance for this film, Paul Dano is an awesome actor and he could have torn through the screen if he had been given the chance to, but his scenes which built up his drug addiction were so weak, sporadic and digestible, they almost seemed acceptable – literally the worst that happens to Dano when he’s drugged out on crack is he drinks from someone else’s beer glass. Yeah. His eyes get a little red and at the first mention of someone calling him an addict – BAM! – cut to scene with him at an AA meeting. Talk about cutting to the chase!

Weitz needs to stick to teen comedies, and Gilmore needs to rethink his latest film choices.

Bastard Sets Its Sights On You

Actress Kirsten Dunst’s short film Bastard is playing the Critic’s Week at Cannes this month and at Tribeca after that. There’s not much revealed about the six-minute short except what she’s said:

“This film explores what makes the unbelievable believable. When we hear a story that seems mysterious or far-fetched, we put more trust in its accuracy the longer ago it took place. As the centuries pass, the truth becomes more malleable. We grow less skeptical of what we might otherwise dismiss as incredible. Our perspective changes. This film addresses the eerie transformation of a familiar myth when displaced to the present.”

Dunst has also been quoted as taking inspiration for her film from Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas. Now, Paris, Texas is one of my favorite movies, and if it’s anything like that, I’ll be shocked. If she meant that it’s stylistically inspired by Wenders, that’s another thing altogether (Wenders’ style is pretty austere and hugely cinematic), but from the initial stills that have come out for the film, it looks more like she was inspired stylistically by Lars von Trier.

Is the blurred red dot present throughout the entire length of the film? What’s the deal? Is it blood on the lens? Is it a sniper has a scope on the girl. If so, von Trier already pulled this cinematic tool of visual permanence on audiences with his film Epidemic, but at least that was just a red slogan embedded in each frame of the film. This is a fucking huge, red blob.

Now, in all fairness, I love anything artistic and thought-provoking — and especially in my movies (Begotten is on my top ten list!), but this just looks bloody annoying.