Captain Fantastic Dec 12, 2016 18:08:36 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Dec 12, 2016 18:08:36 GMT -5
Captain Fantastic (2016)
Directed by: Matt Ross
Directed by: Matt Ross
From left: Shree Crooks, Viggo Mortensen, Samantha Isler, Nicholas Hamilton (front), Annalise Basso, George MacKay, and Charlie Shotwell in Captain Fantastic.
Matt Ross's Captain Fantastic forces audiences to confront the idea of parenting and child-rearing in a way that might not have ever done before. When politicians dare tell us what foods we should steer out children towards or teachers' motivations are called into question in the classroom, talking-heads and reactionary voices always quickly assert that it's the parents' job to teach their children manners, mores, and values at home. In many ways, I agree wholeheartedly, but Captain Fantastic looks at what happens when a parent's method of raising his children is called into questions for not only being unorthodox but perhaps dangerous.
The film revolves around a large family that have lived deep in the Washington wilderness for much of their life, living out of a ramshackle cabin and a modified school-bus as their main-means of transport. The patriarch of the family is Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen), and his motivations are to instill survivalist skills and leftist politics into his children, with the help of his wife Leslie (Trin Miller), who mostly shares his anti-capitalist stance.
Shortly after being hospitalized for bipolar disorder, Leslie commits suicide, and Ben must take his six children underneath his own, admittedly flawed, wing. The children have all been homeschooled their entire life, well-versed in politics, but unable to craft and meaningful social interaction on their own or regurgitate memorized information in their own words. A scene involving Ben and his daughter Vespyr (Annalise Basso) details this perfectly, as Vespyr is reading Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita and is struggling to put into words why she enjoys it. She claims it is "interesting" until Ben interrupts her saying that specific word is "banned" from the family's vocabulary, and when she's tasked with explaining the themes, she devolves into a basic plot overview. These children are incapable of hatching their own ideas due to the fact that they've been so heavily indoctrinated with their parents' ideology since birth.
More on that later. The main point of contention here is Ben knows Leslie's will and subsequent funeral plans, and that was for her funeral to be more of a lively social gathering instead of a somber display of grief and sorrow. However, Leslie's family, including her father Jack (Frank Langella), who despises Ben, calling him the worst thing that has ever happened to his family, and her surviving sister Harper (Kathryn Hahn) want a simpler, more low-key service that goes against everything Ben and Leslie requested. This ignites a feud, with Ben attempting to come to terms with his life, approach, and children as they all begin to become more opinionated and free-thinking on their own terms.
The one we get to know the most throughout the film is Bodevan (George MacKay), Ben's oldest son, who emulates his mannerisms at every turn. He tries to help his younger siblings when their mother passes, but is also hitting the age many young adult men do and it's the age where friends, girls, and status become more of a priority than ever before. Suddenly, clinging to your parents' side doesn't seem like the fun and ideal thing to do anymore, but try breaking free from the clutches of your parents when you (a) haven't learned how to operate in any other way and (b) don't really know where to begin.
MacKay's performance is an emotional one, much like Viggo Mortensen's, the man of the hour, who is always so powerful as understated as he so frequently is here. He acts with his eyes and his head, where just simple expressions can convey a whirlwind of emotional depth and complexity. I feel that this is undoubtedly a showcase of Mortensen's undeniable prowess and experience as an actor, but also writer/director Matt Ross's strength as the captain of Captain Fantastic. Where the film could be a stylistically derivative work resembling that of Wes Anderson's, or bearing a story-structure and empty slew of character archetypes fit for "this week's humble, quirky indie movie," Ross prefers to have his film move with both sentiment and intellectual thought, two things that never go out of style.
Captain Fantastic sometimes feels as if it's trying to be a bit too mainstream, right down to its pretty lame title and its apparent fearfulness to focus on lingering shots of the family in their woodsy habitat for too long. Yet the underlying ideas regarding parenting, child-rearing, and learning to let your children walk on their own path are all significant and present, while the performances here are some of the year's most tender. If you think you'd even be slightly into the story and its quaint display of many different characters, let's just say, you probably would be.
Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Annalise Basso, Shree Crooks, Samantha Isler, Nicholas Hamilton, Charlie Shotwell, Frank Langella, and Trin Miller. Directed by: Matt Ross.