Captain Fantastic sounds like the next big superhero film to hit mainstream cinema. I can assure you its more indie than red underpants and superpowers…although in a sense…it is a heroic film. It’s a sort of feel good film about oddballs having to confront the perceived banalities of suburban life and superficial social norms. Matt Ross doesn’t try to be over-the-top which works out just fine. Far from exaggerating the tension and sticking the drama right in our face, Matt Ross and his actors serve up a deliciously jaunty film that’s serious and sweet all at the same time.
I want to say Viggo Mortensen was awesome in the film but then I’d also have to say everyone else (especially the kids!) were superb as well. If you’ve been disillusioned with the year’s excess of superhero films, I couldn’t recommend a better film to fix that void. It is funny, beautiful and quirky. And of course, it is about real people. Captain Fantastic deals with a secluded family which has presumably lived in the natural environment for quite some time. They’re self-sustainable and well-adept at overcoming whatever challenges the unpredictable wild has in store for them. And most importantly, Dad (Viggo Mortensen) has taught them things way beyond their age in ways that are way beyond the norm. It’s all happy and good until they realize that Mom has recently passed on and things start to inevitably spin out of control. The build-up is fantastic (I know, lame pun but its true.) It seems like a simple enough story and sometimes that’s all you need.
The movie emphasizes on the comically-heartwrenching transition from isolated comfort to uncomfortable…and at times…drab realities of the outside world. Although Viggo Mortensen is sort of the focal point and foundation of Ross’ film, it is in fact the children (which play a huge role) that would come to define,ultimately, what Ross’ film will be about. He handled it to perfection. Melding humour and drama together, Ross’ quirky scenes are just about as oxymoronic as they are real. There is a genuine charm about the whole thing which I haven’t experienced in a long time.
Captain Fantastic shines the spotlight on contrasting lifestyles and views on how we should bring up our children. It deals Amish-like lifestyle and the contrasting modern model without alienating one completely. In a sense, Ross’ liberal approach with the Amish themes seem contradictory. But then you realize it’s not out of fear or preservation of culture; It’s about something more at stake. Of course, Captain Fantastic isn’t one to shy away from the consequences of decisions good or bad, and places its characters in situations that are morally frustrating. It becomes all the more vexing when the outside habitus is encroaching upon their unique perspectives and upbringing; I think the movie nails this completely. It is entirely heart-breaking but finds itself an equal amount of happy, joyous and resounding moments.
Things like celebrating Pastafarianism, seemingly in protest to the idea of a social tool of manipulation…talking over the tragic details of Mom’s death and toasting her death in memory of her life…and being plain streetsmart when stopped by a police officer and other comical and chaotic situations…Captain Fantastic is an ode to a part of life most of us have lost touch with. It is a love letter to the way of life that doesn’t fuss and doesn’t obsess with being politically correct. It needs neither social acceptance nor superficial rewards. Of course, it comes with challenges. But if we can adapt, as the film so resoundingly suggests with a final scene that quite literally (and metaphorically) burns with a beating flame, maybe we too can learn to live and let live.
Rating: 9/10 Viggo Mortensen was a knock-out. I don’t even know what to say, you have to watch it to see it for yourself. Top marks for the kids as well!! 🙂 The end is the best I’ve seen this year. A resounding end to a sweet little film with a big heart.