I thought that Sam Flynn had already found his long-lost father, but hey, this film is, in oh so many other ways, not in the least what I would have expected from the third installment in the "TRON" series, so I guess I'll run with it. No, folks, we're not talking about Jeff Bridges' Kevin Flynn character, and we're darn sure not talking about Errol Flynn, so don't get too excited, because there are no swashbuckling adventures with lasercycle duels, something whose ever being expected in a film like this is completely beyond me, unless of course the people who are setting those hopes are listening to the people who would say that the only way this film could become less bland is if elements of "TRON" were to come into play from out of nowhere, and must mean business, seeing as how they may also say that this film is the only time in which you can call on "TRON: Legacy" as a supplement to a film's escape from blandness. Forget y'all, I like "TRON: Legacy", and I also like this film, even if it doesn't have all kind of cool techno combat mumbo-jumbo, regardless of what its title may - and I mean "may" - suggest. Hey, joking aside, I'll run with this film's final title, because it was either it or the original title of the Nick Flynn memoir upon which this film is based, which I'm not going to say for the sake of the chi-ren, but, needless to say, doesn't fully reflect Flynn's poetic classiness. Of course, if I can be totally honest, this film's source material's title does seem more fitting for a film you would expect from the co-director of "American Pie" whose last collaboration with Robert De Niro was "Meet the Fockers". Seriously though, the Weitz Brothers are pretty diverse filmmakers, though Chris seems to be more diverse than Paul, who doesn't appear to be as prepared for his big dramatic debut as he probably should be (Oh yes, and Chris Weitz completely knew what he was doing when he did "New Moon"). Don't get me wrong, this film is far from "Another Bul-I mean, this film is a decent one, but, much like its central father-son relationship, it's not without its issues.
As experienced as this film's director is in atmospheric fluffiness, I really was expecting to face quite a bit of slowness, and was relieved to find that the final product manages to keep generally reasonably lively, though not exactly thrilled, because entertaining as this film is, after a while, momentum does die down, leaving plotting to drag its feet a bit and throw off engagement value a touch. Slow spells are few and far between, yet they can be found after a while, and dilute compellingness a bit, though not as much as a flaw that is also limited in presence, but more prominent than I expected: subtlety lapses, which are rarely, if ever so immense that this film feels like a bad Hallmark melodrama, but when they do arrive, sometimes in the form of an overemphatic montage set to lame alternative soft rock, they cheese up resonance with superficiality that dilutes depth. Now, the film is rarely, if ever quite as dramatically effective as it could have been, but these lapses in subtlety, no matter how limited in quantity, particularly do a number on resonance, and yet, the detrimental effectiveness of the occasional lapse in subtlety and occasional lapse in liveliness all but pales in comparison to what seems to be this film's biggest issue, of all things, focal unevenness. The film doesn't run but about, say, fifteen minutes before it see the first meeting between between our father-son leads, yet those fifteen minutes feel like thirty as we exhaustingly jerk back and forth between the development segment of Paul Dano's Nick Flynn character and Robert De Niro's Jonathan Flynn character, and after our leads make their first confrontation, freneticism in focal jumps dies down a bit, though not enough, as the film still finds plenty of times to slip up in its juggling two main storylines, if not crowbarring in the occasional flashback to Nick Flynn's childhood, and such a formula gets to be disengagingly repetitious, or, at the very least, emphatic about how this film doesn't have enough time to explore its subject matter as thoroughly as it should. I'm not necessarily saying that this film deserves to be sprawling, but its subject matter does boast much in the way of potential depth and range, yet at a mere 102 minutes, the final execution of this worthy and layered story concept finds itself with only so much time to meditate upon its depth, but still plenty of time for you meditate upon how there's only so much delicacy put into, not necessarily story structure, but storytelling. Paul Weitz isn't entirely ready to take on subject matter with this much potential weight, thus he tones down the immensity of this subject matter's value, while making his share of storytelling hiccups to further distance resonance, until you ultimately end up with a film that could have been more. Still, what this film ultimately is is decent, with many a flaw, yet not enough to take away from your enjoyment in this film as, if nothing else, an entertaining effort with its share of nifty technical stylistic touches.
It's always strange to say that the fun factor in a film is augmented by strong editing, yet films that go particularly livened up by stylish editing are out there, and this film is one of them, not necessarily being as lively in its editing as something like last year's "Dirty Girl", but with quite a few slickly nifty points in story editing that can't fully cut out the focus issues of the film, but certainly add a degree of lively comfort to the tightness that this film boasts a bit too much of. Joan Sobel's editing isn't exactly extremely extraordinary, but it is more clever than I expected and colors things up, yet not quite as much as, well, Paul Weitz, at least as writer, for although Weitz's script is about as flawed as Weitz's direction, there are plenty of sharp moments in dialogue and humor, some of which get to be too sharp, to the point of feeling a touch too theatrical, though not to where you're not engaged enough by the wit within the punch-up to Weitz's sceenplay that supplement the final product's entertainment value. We're not looking at an Aaron Sorkin-level of punch-up with this film's script, but there is much liveliness within Weitz's dialogue and comic relief, as sure as there is liveliness within Weitz's characterization, which is, as I said throughout the better half of the last paragraph, much too flawed, not spending as much time as it should with flesh-out, and making things all the worse by presenting conceptually serious dramatic notes with only so much weight, but still doing an adequate job of associating you with scenarios and characters that feel audaciously realistic. Weitz digs into humanity about as much as he can when facing resistance by dramatic shortcomings, and that's just enough for you to get something of a reasonably tight grip on the value of this film's subject matter, which explores homelessness, mental instability, overambition, self-loathing, family distance and all sorts of other themes that define this drama as a human one. Before you people get too excited, allow me to once again emphasize that the many layers to this film's worthy subject matter are explored rather superficially, when not just plain messily mishandled, yet there's no denying that this film's depth, at least in its basic form, is worthy, especially when you go reminded of this fact by what is actually done right in Weitz script, a mess that remains colorful enough to sustain your interest adequately, and do so with considerable help from the performers who truly bring this film's depth to life about as much as they can. Sure, plenty of supporting players in this game do their part, but this is the Paul Dano's and Robert De Niro's show, which offers our talented pair of leads only so much material, largely due to the dramatic shortcomings that I keep going on and on about, but still enough to work with for you to invest yourself in our leads, with Dano portraying the self-loathing, unrealized artist who is in for plenty of life-defining experiences convincingly, and occasionally with a fair bit of emotional strength, while De Niro immediately wins you over with his convincing and charismatic portrayal of an overambitious deadbeat, before all-out stealing the show with a powerful portrayal of a delusional mess of a mentally, emotionally and socially unstable man, sold on you by De Niro's layered and gripping emotional range, which reminds you of why he has become the acting legend that he is. If Jonathan Flynn' layers, and, with them, De Niro's acting material more played up in the writing and directorial areas, you would be looking at a performance worthy of the shortlist under best supporting actor listings, yet as things stand, De Niro does a lot to power this film, and recieves help from Dano, and not just because our leads share an effective chemistry that deserves to be presented in a more strongly composed film, yet nevertheless stands as a factor behind this film's being decent, regardless of its unforuntate shortcomings.
To close the book, slow spells and lapses in subtlety hit the scene here and there, and dilute emotional resonance, though decidedly not as much as messy focal issues that stand as more consistent than they should be, thus creating a formula that is both repetitious and emphatic about how this film is too tight for its own good, to where not enough depth is explored to compensate for the other storytelling missteps that go into making this drama underwhelming, yet cannot battle back what is, in fact, done right with this film, which boasts editing that is almost as colorful as dialogue and comic relief that break up characterization that is lacking, but still human enough to earn enough of your investment - reinforced by a compelling performances by Paul Dano and show-stealing performances by Robert De Niro - to make "Being Flynn" an entertaining and generally reasonably engaging portrait on the instability within humans that still stands to be painted with more vividness.
2.5/5 - Fair