Saturday, March 3, 2012
Passionately in love with the sound of its own voice, "Being Flynn" builds a house of pseudo-literary artifice on a foundation of risible coincidence. It's every inch the torturefest a glance at the cast list would cause you to surmise.
How bad is De Niro in this picture? Dare I say bad enough to make you second-guess how good he ever really was? As the homeless an...d alcoholic self-styled author Jonathan Flynn, he's allowed (by director Paul Weitz) to fulminate without restraint, raging incoherently against blacks, gays, and most of the rest of the world. (The movie's like a long ride on the 7 line with John Rocker.) The performance veers from dinner-theater emoting to self-parody (for a while, he even works as a taxi driver).
As his abandoned son, an aspiring poet, Paul Dano, already one of the most mannered and false young actors now working, lets loose a tinder box of tics and flourishes. Dano just happens to take work at a homeless shelter where De Niro just happens to seek solace from the cold of winter, and spends most of the rest of the movie reacting to De Niro's vituperations - in scene-ending shots routinely held several beats too long - with the same dim hangdog expression. (Meanwhile, the toughs who work the door at the shelter take so long to shuffle Flynn out after he's been barred, he gets out his entire profane, cringe-inducing rant and almost has time to address a few envelopes.)
Julianne Moore as Dano's loving but depressed mom has a thankless role, but I could watch her do dishes, and Olivia Thirlby manages to make Dano's off-and-on fuckbuddy into someone recognizably human. But they can't save "Being Flynn." It rots from the top down.