Saturday, August 13, 2016

Captain Fantastic

Year: 2016
Director: Matt Ross
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, George Mackay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Frank Langella

Plot: A man who raised his six kids in the wilderness is forced to bring them to the real world when his wife dies, so that they may attend her funeral.

Review: I don't have a lot of love for quirky films, particularly the ones made by the Coens or Wes Anderson. Captain Fantastic by writer/director Matt Ross is sort of quirky, but in a good way. At the very least it's honest and grounded in reality, which I can relate to.

Viggo Mortensen stars as Ben Cash, a man who raises his six kids; Bodevan, Vespyr, Kielyr, Rellian, Zaja and Nai out in the wilderness in the Pacific Northwest (cool names huh?). His wife Leslie, recently ill and receiving treatment in the city, commits suicide. Leslie's father refuses to allow Ben and the kids to attend her funeral, blaming him for his daughter's death. But Ben eventually decides to go anyway, since his kids desperately want to say goodbye to their mother. Thus begins the family's journey into the real world, where the kids, despite being very smart and prepared for dangerous situations, have no idea what they're getting into. But Leslie's father isn't about to let this happen, not when Ben intends to honor her last wishes of being cremated and have her ashes flushed down a toilet.

Captain Fantastic isn't just a story about fatherhood, it's also about family. From the beginning, you can see how tightly knit the family is, even when they don't always agree. Ben educates and trains the kids excellently, even though several of his methods seem incredibly unorthodox or inappropriate at times, like allowing them to swear or drink wine. He teaches them how to hunt, fight and rock climb, while educating them using a large collection of books in their possession. As a result, the kids are strong and smart, probably more so than the average American kid, though they know next to nothing about regular things like shoe brands or pop culture.

However, this story isn't complete if that's all it's about. Ben comes to learn of how his ways aren't working too well when Bo and Rellian start to rebel, and another one of his kids get hurt. Ben's inner conflict and transition from confident parent to a guilty one is well displayed by Mortensen, who is always phenomenal in every role he gets. Credit also goes to the actors playing the children, who each get their own moment to shine, particularly George Mackay as Bodevan. I can almost guarantee you'll love these kids a lot when you meet them. There are also some nice supporting turns from Frank Langella, Kathryn Han and Steve Zahn.

The film does tend to drag every now and then, but it's a small issue. I also thought it unnecessary for Ross to have Ben and some of the kids being openly nude in certain scenes, just to generate shock laughter. The film already has plenty of humor from scenes where Ben applies total honesty with the kids and giving them real weapons for presents.

Captain Fantastic is a nice change of pace from all the summer blockbusters of late, with plenty of scenes that will make you smile (my favorite being the family's rousing rendition of Sweet Child Of Mine). It's definitely worth checking out. (7/10)   

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