Nick Flynn [Paul Dano], a wanna-be writer, finds a job in a Boston homeless shelter and within finds his father Jonathon [Robert De Niro], a self-proclaimed poet and con-man who left Nick and his mother when Nick was very young.
The film is based off poet/play-writer Nick Flynn’s 2004 memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. What is true is that Flynn did work in a homeless shelter where he met his dad for the first time, his parents did divorce when he was younger, and his mother did commit suicide when he was 22.
While the material probably makes for an intense, powerful memoir, I can’t help but feel that the same material, in the way its presented in the film, is a little clichéd, uninspired, obvious. This is only speaking of the product as a whole, for within the film are exceptions, performances that surprise and impress, especially the usually drunk, maybe-insane character from De Niro. Julianne Moore, who plays Nick’s mother, and Dano also provide some saving graves, but not enough to lift the film out of the dreary, sad waters in which it swims.
I always make sure to save my complete like/dislike of the film until the final seconds end, because there are a lot of films that can drag, bore, and confuse the viewer until one final surprising twist or fact or action occurs right before the screen fades to black. As Nick reads his father’s book, he says it starts with potential, then fades back into the style of his drunk father’s lifestyle. I feel the same is fitting for not only the ending of the film, but the entirety of it.
1/4 – Nick says at one point “If you try and save a drowning man you might go under”. There are efforts to save the film, De Niro’s performance one of them, but I find the film and it’s performers fail to find the surface.