The film isn’t just about families living with a Charismatic besotted by the American Dream of living big with no disciplined path to get there. Jennifer Vogel’s story is about her determination to flee out and up as an investigative journalist. That she does it without the resources of the middle-class university feminist education is the point. She’s outside of that, she does it without social support.
Penn, whom I have had a certain onscreen weakness for in the past, doesn’t miss a chance to exploit every element of Jez Butterworth’s script filled with big kitchen and jailhouse battles, personal soliloquies, and setting suns (over Manitoba, as it turns out, which came through with tax breaks to simulate Minnesota) underscored by songs that serve as onscreen character balloons.
Over the course of its 108 minutes, it’s Dylan’s story but Dad Penn is going for the Daily Double here: young woman up, old dad, and by extension, dudes, down. Told with empathy to be sure, but with a radioactive dose of multiplex and Oscar-consciousness all around. Not happening. Unfortunately for the film, this is exactly the kind of Hollywood project that should avoid the Competition at Cannes. The crowd can smell blood. (Aug 20 release in theatres.)