Starring: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks, Charlie Shotwell, Frank Langella
Directed by: Matt Ross
Written by: Matt Ross
Rating: R Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min
Okay, let’s start with the plain and simple nuts and bolts of this production. Captain Fantastic, is a well-crafted film. It’s beautifully shot by Stéphane Fontaine (Jackie) and scored by Alex Somers (Aloha). The cast are superb, and the story delivers drama, danger, beauty, and comedy. On all these fronts, I found nothing to complain about. Captain Fantastic, is a good film.
The story presents two extremes. Ben’s (Viggo Mortenses) wish to teach and guide his children away from the trappings of modern western culture. And his father in-laws wish that the children be part of the ‘normal’ world. A safe environment where the children can learn skills not found in books approved by Noam Chomsky.
How you ultimately feel about this film will depend on what side of this discussion you agree with the most. And what you think of writer/director, Matt Ross’s conclusions. As it’s presented here, the topic is told with a bias towards Ben’s isolationist ideals, but does point out some clear flaws in his choices. When the children first venture out into the world, they are completely unprepared for what they find. They can all speak six languages and quote philosophy, but have no knowledge of 21st century pop-culture, or how to read social situations.
Since you’re most likely going to be in a nice cozy theater or living room watching this, it’s possible you’ll feel challenged by Ben’s ideals. He calls soda poison water after all, and continually rants about the evils of consumerism. You’ll sit there quietly defending your right to wash down processed corn with sugar water, and gleefully point at Ben’s failures. But ultimately, you’ll want Ben and his family to win. Such is the quality of Matt Ross’s script, and the performances from Viggo Mortenses and the rest of the cast.
Some of the film’s plot turns felt a little underdeveloped in my opinion, and the conclusion landed on a compromise I couldn’t fully accept. But as I said, where you side on this discussion will ultimately inform your enjoyment of this film. In this case, I didn’t think the problems inherent in Ben’s philosophy and life choices required as big a capitulation as shown in the film.
If you enjoyed the film, Little Miss Sunshine, I think you’ll enjoy this. Expect a story that will challenge you while it entertains.
Best Moment: << spoiler! >>
The family get to honor their late wife/mother’s wishes after her passing, and hold a private ceremony in an airport toilet. When Ben’s youngest, Nai (Charlie Shotwell) says “Bye mommy” and flushes the toilet, you won’t know whether to laugh or cry.