On Saturday, at this party I eavesdropped on two writers talking about Nick Flynn. This and dancing is what I do in these situations.
Flynn's best known for the memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City and apparently is a nice guy.
One of the writers said he heard Being Flynn, the recent movie adaptation of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, was well made. Then the other writer said his friend told him Being Flynn sucked.
I'd just finished reading the memoir and had been meaning to watch its adaptation, boring title and all. I could get down with Robert De Niro as the alcoholic absent father and Paul Dano as the son who works at a homeless shelter his father begins frequenting.
Because I've been studying the book I probably found greater interest and frustration in the movie than most, but both friends of those writers whose names I can't remember (beards?) could make solid arguments.
The book, winner of a PEN award in 2004, is adventurous in structure and full of lyrical energy, one of those that grabs your literary hand and pulls you through a crowded street and all you can think is yes, before wondering if this was a good idea. Short nonlinear chapters, titled and in many cases dated, weave together the lives of the narrator and his father.
I was surprised how much the movie echoes this structure by consistently moving through time and featuring dual narration by De Niro and Dano. On screen much of the literary techniques' style and subtlety are lost. There's also a dead mother hallucination of Julianne Moore.
Still it's a movie, and movies are awesome. You can read a drunk's angry catchphrase or you can watch De Niro clench his neck and yell, “Bam-o!” as he swings a club, spit spraying. Books might be smart or cool, but movies are awesome.
And in a story about addiction (both father and son abuse substances) it's unsettling to watch characters continually raise glasses and bottles and spiked orange juice cartons to their lips.
One of my favorite chapters of the book, a four-page prose poem of drinking slang, makes its way into the movie as a journal entry, and Dano, as in the broken rock star drama For Ellen, shows off his skills as Hollywood's best at wearing a leather jacket while feigning intoxicated dance moves.
In January Flynn is releasing The Reenactments, a new memoir about watching the filming of Being Flynn. Yes, for those of you keeping score, that's a book about a movie about a book, which sounds like a suspect idea, but it's also going to weave in explorations of Harvard's Glass Flowers art exhibit and Ramachandran's phantom limb syndrome experiments.
I kind of want to see the movie.