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ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Intriguing Story Poorly Told
by Geoffrey D. Roberts

Jennifer Vogel has spent her entire life trying to deal with considerable psychological trauma caused by her father John Vogel in Flag Day. This film, based on Jennifer Vogel’s memoir Flim-Flam Man: A True Family History, begins with Jennifer (Dylan Penn) sitting directly across from a detective who produces a rather thick dossier detailing why her father, played by Sean Penn, led police on a wild car chase to avoid being captured for printing $22 Million in fake US currency.  

In a series of flashbacks ranging from 1975-1992 we learn that Jennifer has always viewed her father through rose-colored glasses instead of seeing him as a chronic liar, conman, criminal re-offender, and absentee father. At least, that’s how her alcoholic mother Patty (Katheryn Winnick) consistently painted him. 

As a child, Jennifer (Jadyn Rylee) overlooked her father's numerous shortcomings. She wasn't made fully aware about his brushes with the law nor how it led to him to disappearing suddenly only to later resurface without notice. As far as Jennifer was concerned, her father -- whenever present -- made her feel the entire world revolved around her.

As a teenager, Jennifer developed an intense hatred of her mother, especially after Patty's boyfriend attempted to have sex with her while she was asleep. Instead of consoling her daughter and directly confronting him, her mother chose to do nothing about it.

When John finds himself imprisoned after an unsuccessful bank heist he is confronted by a now adult Jennifer who becomes irate with him for maintaining his innocence. He insists he makes his money as an entrepreneur, but she points out a giant red welt on his forehead where he had glued part of a wig that she knew he used as a disguise in the attempted robbery. Thoroughly disgusted having been lied to by John one time too many, she storms off and cuts off all contact. Despite his constant efforts to reach out by mail, Jennifer rebuffs him. She refuses to read or respond to the copious letters he had written to her.  

As time goes on Jennifer develops a burning desire to be a journalist. She impresses the recruiter at the University of Minnesota with a trio of articles submitted to be considered for admission in their journalism program, but he knows she lied about her background and credentials. He then produces a file on her father indicating he knows her real background. Rather than outright dismissing her, he asks if she was the real author behind the pieces that impressed him. Upon her confirmation he asks Jennifer to go into detail about her reasons for wanting to pursue journalism. Vogel responds that she has always been infatuated in unearthing the truth versus the lies people tell in every story. Dylan Penn, making her debut here, is a revelation as Jennifer and steals the picture out from under veterans, including her father Sean Penn.

Unfortunately, I think Jez Butterworth’s screenplay seems poorly written and adapted. Also, Penn’s portrayal of John Vogel and his direction of the film infuriated me because it isn’t told in chronological order nor does it establish John Vogel’s true motivation for his continuous committing of crimes. 

(Released by MGM and United Artists Releasing. Rated “R” by MPAA.)

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