On the one hand, it could be argued that director Paul Weitz’s goal is to stick the viewer squarely in the middle of the awkward and terse central relationship and force the audience to engage. In this way, Being Flynn is a great success. But on the other hand, being this close to the fray, so to speak, also forces the viewer to react to Jonathan in a personal nature. For me, this led to the overwhelming feeling that Jonathan would deserve whatever fate befell him and stripped me of any emotional attachment I might have had to his plight. Being Flynn should be relatable to anyone who has ever struggled with his or her relationship with a parent but instead I found myself sympathizing some for Nick and feeling nothing beyond “good riddance” for Jonathan.
That’s a shame, too, because this is without question the most significant role De Niro has taken on in well over a decade. This might be his best performance since 1996’s Sleepers and it is a fantastic, hopeful sight to see him go back to something worthwhile. Despite nearly 15 years of utter mediocrity, I am still of the opinion that when given a reason to invest, De Niro is one of the five best actors in the industry, only he keeps taking awful role after awful role. He does an excellent job of fully committing to Jonathan, creating a memorable character, even if it is memorable for being a wretched human. Likewise, Dano is very good in his role and brings a lot of realism to the part. In the hands of another director (not necessarily better hands, just different), Being Flynn might have turned into a showcase piece for Dano, for which I could see a world in which he would garner award attention. As it is, however, De Niro overshadows him and perhaps this keeps Dano (and Nick) from reaching his full potential. Being Flynn is an interesting film and one that is almost as tough to grade as it is to watch. At times it makes a push to point itself toward “great” but more often than not I felt it floundered despite the best efforts of cast and crew.