Film Based on UH Professor’s Memoir Hits Big Screen

Robert De Niro stars in "Being Flynn," a new movie about the life of Nick Flynn, a part-time U of H writing teacher.
Wed March 14, 2012 9:40 pm
Screenshot | Being Flynn

Being Flynn, the new movie based on the memoir Another Bullshit Night in Suck City, by Nick Flynn, a part-time writing teacher at the University of Houston, is about grappling with “whether we’re fated to become our parents,” Paul Weitz, the movie’s director, told NPR. “And eventually, how much of their flaws do we have to own in order to move on with our lives?”

In the wake of his mom’s suicide, Flynn, a twenty-something burgeoning writer (Paul Dano), took a job at a homeless shelter in Boston, where he unwittingly ran into his father (Robert De Niro), an alcoholic, ex-convict with delusions of literary grandeur who had abandoned his wife and son. Trying to mend this fractured relationship is the crux of the story.

“Sometimes awkwardly and sometimes gracefully, Being Flynn charts a middle course between the rough honesty of its source and the sentimental triteness of the much worse movie it could have been,” A.O. Scott of the New York Times wrote. “There is honest feeling, genuine humanity and real intelligence in this movie, but there is also a sense of caution, of indecisiveness, that undermines its potential power.”

The movie took eight years to make and involved thirty versions of the script, Ari Karpel of the New York Times reported. Weitz called the process “Kafkaesque,” citing a number of obstacles, including the difficulty in adapting a memoir about writing, addiction, and homelessness that isn’t fraught with cliches; shifts in taste in the movie business; and his own personal demons he had to battle.

The director described an early draft of the script to Karpel as a “Romanian art-house film,” and Flynn called it “weird and dark and poetic.” That is probably why Sony Pictures, the studio that held the initial option, wasn’t feeling it. “It’s a movie about a homeless street alcoholic, what,” [Flynn] used an expletive “do you want? They just drained the darkness out of it until it became kind of unrecognizable.”

That’s when De Niro, who worked with Weitz on Little Fockers, entered the fray and wielded his influence. The movie eventually made its

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