While some films ends up being epic, some only finishes flickering through the screen with a promise of reaching that iconic status. Being Flynn is of second category. It does not become a masterpiece even with the performance of a lifetime from one of the greatest actors Hollywood has ever seen: Robert de Niro. If Scent of a Woman can be seen only to experience the over-the-top performance of Al Pacino the same can be said about Being Flynn, a film that can be seen for three reasons: Robert de Niro, Robert de Niro, Robert de Niro.
The story told in the film is not the story of the New York commonly catered. It’s rather an aghast darkly look at the city’s soul, peeping into its underbelly. The two protagonists: the father and his estranged son played by de Niro and Paul Dano respectively are the representatives of a city living under the darkness in noon. Both of them are misfits in their own right, victims of substance abuse, struggling to find meaning in their lives: one through his blind faith and rants, other through grief and absolution.
Nick (Dano) is bewildered at the sudden arrival of his father in his life. The unannounced intrusion of the man whom he has not seen for 18 years does not seem arbitrary when he meets the man in person. The maniacal personality of his father, who considers himself “one of the three greatest writers America has ever produced”, who passes through life as if hunting for material for his next great American novel while in reality being but an ex-con, an awkward cab driver and someone whose biggest achievement is but rejection letters from big publishing houses. How they come in terms with their individual afflictions and proceed towards something meaningful is is what the film is about and yet it is not a melodrama full of gratuitous co-incidences.
How the story is enfolded into a drama that was meant to end as a tragedy but was thwarted to mediocrity by a happy ending is not really my point here. My point is the very innovative style of story telling, the voice – over of two actors taking turns as the role of the narrator, the wonderfully written script laden with poetic gems and a rapt binding. Why this film could not earn de Niro an oscar that I do not know, as I do not know the reason for receiving such lukewarm acceptance of this film. What I know is that it is a film truly memorable and would remain with someone like me who is often more appreciative of literary brilliance of a film than its cinematic brilliance. A very highly recommended watch for those who ever struggled with one’s writing.