Tuesday, August 2, 2016

[Review] Captain Fantastic

No, Captain Fantastic is not a Marvel superhero movie. But it is an under-the-radar indie gem that certainly deserves an audience. With shades of David Gordon Green (Prince Avalanche, Joe) and Alexander Payne (Sideways, The Descendants), writer/director Matt Ross' first major feature is a road trip movie that carves out its own unique identity. And it stars Viggo "The King" Mortensen.

The story revolves around Ben (a grizzly Mortensen) and his six kids who live off the land and reside in a shack deep within a Pacific Northwest forest. They're extremely equipped for the wilderness and impressively book-smart, but they have no social experience with the densely populated world. After their mother passes away, the family decides to journey into the city in order to attend the funeral and carry out her last wishes, despite the opposition of Ben's stern father-in-law (Frank Langella).

The scenic, exquisitely shot film sports some great views of mountain ranges. And thematically, it explores both sides of the off-the-grid / capitalist society spectrum. The culture clash creates some painfully uncomfortable sequences: A dinner at Ben's sister's house... The oldest son's first sexual encounter... I won't mention the huge one that comes late in the game. The script weaves in thought-provoking topics of philosophy, religion, politics, parenting, education, lifestyle choices, and mental illness. And instead of getting too absolute in any direction, it more-so touches upon the intricacies of each.

Viggo gives a terrific performance, fully embodying the rugged, flawed, and complicated character while demonstrating a wide scope of emotion. At times, we question his judgement, and other times we respect the heck out of him. There's a sympathy there, especially because of how strongly he believes what he's doing is right, along with the revelatory motivations behind it. (Also, be prepared to see Aragorn's sword.) All the kids are great and fully convincing too. They act exactly how you'd think they would, considering the environment they've been raised in. George MacKay (the oldest son) in particular is a breakthrough. And while some films may have portrayed Frank Langella's character as an obstructive villain, Captain Fantastic is too richly complex to go that route.

Captain Fantastic is poignant, humorous, bizarre, and fascinating ("interesting" isn't allowed).

( 8/10 )

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