“Flag Day” is about Journalist Jennifer Vogel and her relationship with her oft-imprisoned father, John. John and Jennifer are played by the father/daughter acting team of Sean Penn and Dylan Penn.
Her brother Hopper Jack Penn (named after their parent’s friends Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson) is also in the film. Their mother is actress Robin Wright so to say acting is in their blood is to put it mildly.
Sadly, you don’t get to see a lot from Hopper here to honestly judge his performance. Regarding Dylan’s appearance, I’d like to see her in a film that, outside of screaming to get her father’s attention on occasion, allows her more of an opportunity to show range. Too frequently, she stood with a blank stare on her face, but it’s obvious that when she gets more characters to play, she’ll become more skilled. When she gets larger parts that don’t involve a family member directing her, as father Sean did here, she’ll develop and quickly become as well known for her talent as her parents are. This particular film, which is worth watching, doesn’t truly allow her to spread her wings. However, it’s easy to see she has that capability.
The story is about a daughter who desperately desires to have a relationship with an absent father. Though the drunk has proven to her over and over that he’s not to be trusted, she still clings to the notion that he’s someone she should attempt to keep in her life. That he loves her and wants this, too. He does love her; he loves the American dream. He was born on Flag Day, the day all of America celebrates the country and his birth as he sees it! He somehow thinks that entitles him to what the country promises; a good life and the money it takes to have one. That doesn’t necessarily mean he has to work for it, does it?
It takes Jennifer a long time to learn what her mother finally found out, which is if a man finds it incredibly easy to let go of you, you need to let go of him. Her mother turned to drink, so she wasn’t someone to look up to either. As a teenager, Jennifer decides to live with John and try to make the best of the situation. She also attempts to turn him into someone he isn’t. No longer believing his lies, she requests of him one thing. He needs to tell her the truth. From the beginning, you can see that John can never be trusted, but I don’t think the filmmakers were trying to hide that fact. Writers Jez Butterworth and John-Henry Butterworth, and Sean Penn, directing himself for the first time, show you the journey it takes for Jennifer Vogel to grow up and realize that we must create our own future if we’re to have one.
In the end, Jennifer does just that. She goes to the University of Minnesota, by using a few tactics learned from her father, to be a journalist. The reason? She wants to matter.
I have to mention that “Flag Day” has a great soundtrack. Aptly titled “My Father’s Daughter,” a song by Olivia Vedder, written by Glen Hansard and Olivia’s father, Eddie Vedder, is used. It’s very moving; her voice is both sweet and bewitching, which suits the film’s narrative quite nicely. You’ll appreciate a lot of the other music that’s chosen for the film, as well. Another highlight I’d like to mention before I end is Regina King’s cameo appearance. Her empathetic police officer, who informs Jennifer that her father printed millions of dollars in fake one-hundred-dollar bills, leaves almost as much of an impression on the audience as Dylan’s Jennifer does. She’s compassionate, thoughtful and supportive, speaking to Jennifer from experience, as one daughter who has been through it, to the next. In the two scenes Regina has with Dylan, she leaves quite an impression.
“Flag Day” releases in theaters on Aug 20, 2021, for a limited time.
Directed by: Sean Penn
Written by: Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth
Starring: Dylan Penn, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Norbert Leo Butz, Dale Dickey, Eddie Marsan, Bailey Noble, Hopper Jack Penn, Katheryn Winnick
Rated: R (Language|Violent Content|Some Drug Use)
Runtime: 1h 48m
Genres: Drama, Thriller
*Based on the memoir “Flim-Flam Man: The True Story of My Father’s Counterfeit Life” by Jennifer Vogel