Cannes 74: ‘Flag Day’ Review
History tells us that there are a few exceptions, but actors-turned-directors are often catalysts for calamitous filmic accomplishments. This flare of switching sides, and going from the front of the camera to its back seems to be particularly enjoyed by Hollywood actors, whose egos lead them to believe that their supernatural talent has no boundaries, and after being directed a number of times, they have learnt the craft. For Sean Penn’s latest project, Flag Day, I really wish he chose to be in the front only.
We have to consider that Penn did deliver us Into the Wild, so he has proven that he knows how to sit in the director’s chair. But bear in mind, he wasn’t also acting in that one. Perhaps, starring in the leading role and running the behind the scenes show was too much even for him. Admittedly, he really didn’t want to star in it (he offered the part to Matt Damon, who dodged the bullet) but was ultimately pressured by the producers. So what exactly went wrong? The based-on-a-true-story plot follows a father (Sean Penn) that keeps disappointing her daughter (Dylan Penn), played by Penn’s real offspring. The nepotism doesn’t end there, as Penn’s real-life son, Hopper, is forced into the movie too, leading to an involuntary exhilarating scene in which a 1975-born child suddenly looks like a 30 year old in 1980. Daddy Penn keeps apologising, promising that he has changed and his conman swindler’s days are gone for good, and he is foolishly believed by his daughter endless times. Every scene seems a remake of the previous one, as the same dynamic keeps unfolding, and the only change are the protagonists’ different hairstyles. Penn is ultimately looking for a glimpse of empathy for his toxic character, however failing to get any.
Penn’s unsurprisingly good performance doesn’t redeem his lack of directing skills, nor does it save the film. The father disappoints his family as much as the director disappoints his audience. Some over the top performances in cringe, cheesy scenes are alternated with absolutely no mise-en-scene in a parade of conventionality. Overall, the movie is a long, cut-to-music montage with slow-motion shots and camera flares. Any frame of Flag Day could be used for a country music video. By the end, Flag Day assumed another meaning: I was waving a flag too, not a patriotic stars and stripes one, but a white one begging for mercy- no more montages!