Screw-Up Writers: Like Father, Like Son

What’s sadder than working at a homeless shelter? Running into your dad there, as one of the shelter’s substance-abusing down-and-outs.

This actually happened to the Boston poet Nick Flynn, who, as a struggling, rudderless writer, teetering on the verge of alcoholism during his late 20s, took a job at a Bean Town homeless shelter. There he met his father, a full-blown alcoholic and an ex-con, who spent most of Flynn’s childhood in a federal prison for passing bad checks; the only prior contact the two had had was through the erratic, overwrought letters Flynn’s father had sent him from the jailhouse.

Two screw-up writers. Two alcoholics. One homeless shelter. Like father, like son.

Flynn recounted this grim, man-in-the-mirror moment—sometimes eloquently, sometimes brutally—in his cult 2005 memoir, the achingly bleak Another Bullsh** Night in Suck City. Seven years later, it’s a film. And a film with a star-studded cast, no less. In Being Flynn, which premiers locally tonight at the Lagoon, Robert DeNiro plays Flynn’s raging, blustery father; Julianne Moore plays Flynn’s mother; and Paul Dano, the moon-faced actor from Little Miss Sunshine and There Will Be Blood, plays Flynn himself.  

Though director Paul Weitz’s adaptation for the big screen has won the approval of the real-life Flynn, it’s struggled to win over critics, and the early impressions of the film have been tepid, at best. Still, it should be refreshing to see DeNiro steer out of the embarrassing nosedive that is Meet the Fockers. And for lit fans enthralled by the junkie memoir genre, it’s a rare chance to see a cult fav get the Hollywood treatment—for better or worse.

Being Flynn
March 23, 7:15 & 9:40 p.m., $9
Lagoon Cinema, 1320 Lagoon Ave., Mpls. 612-823-3020