Sean Penn connects with his daughter well in front of and behind the camera.
I apologize if I didn’t have my review of “Flag Day” sooner, but I was on a family vacation in Bar Harbor, Maine. And I would have taken a trip to NYC to see it, as I do with most artisan features, but I didn’t want to risk getting sick before the trip, and I’m vaccinated by the way. But I’ve finally found the chance to see it in my schedule, and it’s full of life and convictions.
“Flag Day” is the first movie to star Sean Penn (who also directs) and his children: daughter Dylan and son Hopper. The action mostly hinges on Dylan as Jennifer Vogel, whose father John (Sean Penn) is a conman. Both these actors are exceptional in the ways they deliver on the father-daughter relationship, unlike Jason Momoa and Isabela Merced in “Sweet Girl,” for example. Granted it doesn’t have the humanity of one of Sean Penn’s previously directed films “Into the Wild,” but it does have the emotions and complications to keep us involved.
The story begins in 1975, when little Jennifer and her brother Nick have to live with their mother Patty (Katherine Winnick), while their father is dealing with God knows what. She constantly tells her daughter there are things about her father that she doesn’t understand.
Then we travel forward to 1981, when teenage Jennifer dyes her hair black, does drugs, and leaves home, because of her bad connection with her mother, and the fact that her new guy (Norbert Leo Butz) tried to sexually violate her. She comes to live with her father, and when she asks about what he does for a living, he tells her he’s an entrepreneur. But she wants the truth. He owes people money and gets himself in trouble with the law.
On the side, in 1985, Jennifer has a goal to become a journalist, and despite some downfalls, like her father in prison and her dropping out of school, she enrolls in the University of Minnesota, where she expands her horizons as a writer and graduates with honors.
With small roles from Josh Brolin, Dale Dickey, Eddie Marsan, and Regina King, “Flag Day” shows us the connection between the father and daughter, and how they learn to overcome one another’s issues. The father is a criminal, and the daughter struggles with her situations. There are times when she doesn’t read his letters from prison or when she doesn’t take his phone calls, but there are also times when she has the heart to never give up on him.
This is an independent feature, released by MGM, and hasn’t been making much money due to the Delta variant, but I still think that if it comes to your local art house theater, you should give it the BOTD. When “Sweet Girl” premiered on Netflix, despite my warnings on what a horrendous piece of crap it was, it was the most viewed movie on its opening weekend. How can you people become so obsessed with such commercialism that you’d miss out on a movie like this. “Flag Day” has a smarter and more affectionate father-daughter relationship than that bomb will ever have.
The story, which is based on the memoir of the real Jennifer Vogel, slacks off at times, but it still allows us to see the connection between Sean and Dylan Penn. The former directs himself with pain and convictions, while the latter makes her breakout role with strengths and weaknesses. She may of had a few minor movie roles in her past, but after seeing her in “Flag Day,” I still think she has a future as an actress, and I can’t wait to see her next entry.
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