Jennifer Vogel (Dylan Penn) had a troubled childhood. Her father, John (Sean Penn) always seemed to be up to some scheme in order to try and provide for his family, but it always landed him in trouble. Jennifer dreams of being a journalist too and despite her father’s best attempts to help her in life, she’s had to struggle through and make it on her own.
However, John always manages to find a way to get himself back into his daughter’s life and each time he promises that he’s changed.
Flag Day is the feature directorial debut of Sean Penn and stars his daughter, Dylan. Based on the book by the real Jennifer Vogel, Flag Day tells the story of her life from the early seventies right up to the present day. Unfortunately, although this ambitious project seems like it would be a breeze for such a Hollywood legend as Sean Penn, it lacks a lot of things that could have made it great.
Firstly, there’s the story itself. There’s no disputing that Jennifer Vogel had a hard childhood and learned to make it on her own, but then again so did lots of people. This leaves the beats of her story feeling not all that special, unusual or interesting. Least of all anything that would warrant a biopic.
Then there’s the characterisation of Jennifer and her father and it seems like Jennifer herself may have not been consulted because the movie doesn’t even attempt to put on screen what kind of a connection that she had with her father. This means for the most part it just seems that the story is being played out without any emotional weight.
A reason for Jennifer’s anguish other than her father being a criminal or any kind of redeeming feature of her father could have made a bond that the audience could support, but in Flag Day there’s nothing. Add to that the confusing structure of going back and forth through time in flashbacks which are only really indicated by Dylan Penn’s hairstyle and the audience may soon lose interest.
Flag Day comes across as a passion project to simultaneously boost Sean Penn’s profile whilst bonding with his daughter, but only the former comes across on screen.
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