Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Captain Fantastic

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  The title does kinda make this movie sound like it's about a 70s era bubblegum pop band.

Captain Fantastic – 4 out of 5

I’m kind of a sucker for independent movies that center on quirky families.  They have a certain magic that the big studios haven’t been able to quite capture and the humor and heart that is contain within these are second-to-none.  That’s a big part of the appeal for Captain Fantastic for me and one of the major reasons that I found the film so enjoyable.

They look like they're about to beat the Partridge Family in a battle of the
bands contest.

Permanent camping seems nice...until I remember
I will be going boom-boom in an outhouse.
Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) and his wife Leslie grew tired of the capitalistic society that they found themselves in and decided that they wanted to start a new life for their family.  They ended up cutting themselves off from the world and started living off the land in the Washington wilderness but a mental illness drew Leslie away and to a facility to be treated.  One morning, Ben learns that Leslie committed suicide and that her father (Frank Langella) has declared Ben is not allowed at the funeral.  Upset over this and the fact that his father-in-law is going to refuse to grant Leslie’s final wishes as stipulated in her will, he gathers up his six kids and sets out on a road trip to correct these wrongs.  The biggest problem that lies ahead may end up being that a family that lived their in the wilderness might not have what it takes to interact with modern day society.

Some pictures just don't need a caption and my sad attempts at being funny.
This is one of them.

Captain Fantastic really nails everything that I look for in these independent films that center on family.  There’s a quirkiness to it that makes the characters interesting and amusing but delivered in a dose that keeps it grounded enough that it doesn’t look silly.  The film also balances humor and drama effectively well as it had me warmly chuckling at the antics of Ben and his children one moment and claiming that I had something in my eye the next.  Finally, the characters are all very interesting and developed well enough that it was easy to sympathize and become enthralled with.  Writer/director Matt Ross (you might know him as Gavin from Silicon Valley or Alby Grant from Big Love or any of the other numerous roles he’s done in his career) exceptionally crafted a film that had a simple but interesting premise and was loaded with charm, wit, and tenderness.

I wish my dad headbutted me more!

I joke about Hahn being in these films but she fits so well in them.
Another instantly recognizable element of the film is the performances from the cast.  I was extremely impressed with all the children in the Cash clan and all the actors taking up smaller parts—like one of my personal favorite actors Steve Zahn and the actress who seems to be required by law to be in any and all quirky indie films; Kathryn Hahn.  Ultimately though, the one actor who steals the show is the lead Viggo Mortensen.  Granted, the lead actor should be the one commanding the most attention but there have been many a movie that has had supporting players outshining their leads.  Mortensen is just incredible to watch and is exceptional as the incredibly intelligent but also humanly flawed Ben.  He clearly had an extreme understanding of the character and he brought him to life in a way that was undeniably real and terrifically endearing.

He also had an epic beard!

Their oldest son is named Bodevan...which is either
an extremely cool name or really bad.  There's
no in-between with that one.
The only drawbacks I found in Captain Fantastic was the development of some of the younger members of the Cash family and the overall length of the feature.  In its most simplistic state, the film is essentially about Ben and the oldest son Bodevan (George MacKay)—with the two older sisters and the middle son coming up next in the horse race that is the characters and the two youngest siblings coming in last for more comedic bits.  The issue I had was that the siblings after the oldest didn’t feel that feathered out or as dynamic as Ben and Bo.  With the family being as large as it is, it was expected that some just wouldn’t get the screen time they needed but when the story spends most of its time developing Bo and then you have Relian (the middle son played by Nicholas Hamilton) play a part in the plot where he starts to despise how the family dynamic is, it feels a tad awkward.  Granted, Relian's feelings towards his father are gestating within the story since the beginning but there's still a feeling of imbalance that I got from his part in the family compared to Bodevan's.  It’s not bad but with the film being almost two hours, I felt that Matt Ross might have been able to develop and utilize the entire family well enough that they all could have been major players in their little adventure.

Frank Langella really was the perfect actor to play the disapproving father-in-law.
Mostly because Langella always looks like he's about to say that
he's disappointed in you.

Captain Fantastic takes a small speed bump in its journey in the form of some less than stellar development but, in the end, it’s not really a hit that harms the overall quality of the film.  At its core, Matt Ross still wrote and directed an absolutely stunning film that looks amazing and contains a great emotional centerpiece.  To put it in the most basic way and to have this review sound like all those critics who strive to find their sometimes snarky snippets; Captain Fantastic is pretty damn fantastic.  Now, put that on the DVD cover.  Seriously, please put that on the cover.  I wanna prove to my mom I’m not wasting my time with this hobby.

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