Unless you’ve been living in the wilderness for your entire life, you’ve probably seen a family road trip movie before. Whether it be Chevy Chase trying to visit Wally World, or Robin Williams tricking his family into going on his business trip, you’d be forgiven for reading a synopsis of Captain Fantastic and deciding that it’s the sort of movie that you’ve already seen. Of course, you’d be completely wrong. For all his quirks, I don’t remember Robin Williams ever celebrating the works of Noam Chomsky with a sing-song, and the children in Vacation were never anywhere near as compelling and unique as the small army of juniors in this movie. This is a strange, highly politicized beast with a lot of heart. And a lot of darkness.
The film itself is the story of Ben Cash, played superbly by Viggo Mortensen. Ben is a left-wing isolationist, who along with his lawyer wife chose to shun society and bring up their family in the wilderness in a self-sustaining manner. When his wife gets sick, and dies in a hospital on the other side of the country, Ben is told in no uncertain terms that he is not welcome anywhere near the funeral ceremonies by his conservative father-in-law. Ben and his 6 children decide to live by their motto – “Power to the people, stick it to the man” – and head across the country to attend anyway, and very quickly learn that, while their academic knowledge is off the chart, none of them have any real idea how to cope with society.
Mortensen is the star of this movie, and the supporting cast includes capable performers like Frank Langella, Kathryn Hahn, Missi Pyle and Steve Zahn, the true heart of the performance comes from the child actors. Decent child actors can be hard to come by, but this film managed to pull six child actors who absolutely nail performances that the film relies on. The actors are George MacKay, Samantha Isler, Annalise Basso, Nicholas Hamilton, Shree Crooks and Charlie Shotwell, and I’d pay close attention to those names, as I think we may hear a lot more of them in the upcoming years. And, just to clarify, I mean that in an Emma Watson kind of way, not a Macaulay Culkin kind of way.
Man, what happened?
The film has a lot of positives to talk about. First and foremost in that regards is the humour. While this film might take itself a lot more seriously overall than the “family roadtrip movies” I listed above, that does not mean that this film lacks humour and charm. It’s not the funniest movie of the year (unless you’re the gentleman in Row J at my screening who got the giggles all night, even in the serious parts), but there’s certainly a wry humour that didn’t go unappreciated on my end. Those aforementioned serious moments worked very well, too. A few scenes in particular end up being very emotional without being cloying or forced. The movie is also prepared to get very political at times. While the filmmaker, Matt Ross, clearly has views that lean towards the left of the political spectrum, and he makes no attempt to hide those or his obvious disdain for conservative views, he’s not completely biased in his portrayal. The family at the centre of the plot have flaws in their very extreme views on the world, and the film does address those adequately. No doubt the politics of the film will still upset some people, but to me it does not feel like a piece of propaganda.
I’d also like to take a moment to discuss the music in this film. The soundtrack is very well done, and allows me to say the most unlikely sentence I’ve said for a long time, so here goes: *clears throat*
There’s a very good folksy cover of “Sweet Child O’ Mine”, and also a rolicking energetic version of “Scotland the Brave” (i.e. that song that people play on the bagpipes).
That was liberating.
Anyway, sadly there were one or two negatives that I feel I must address. The film didn’t feel as tight as it could have. One or two scenes felt superfluous and merely added to a nearly 2 hour runtime, while some other plotlines were resolved rather conveniently. And one of the children, who was perhaps the least cooperative of the clan, had a half-baked motivation. I could understand where Ross was coming from when he wrote the film. And I feel like in his mind the boy’s actions were entirely justified and logical. But, regrettably, it doesn’t quite translate to the screen.
Another small negative is that the film felt like it was about to come to an end a few times, but then continued. Which can sometimes be frustrating as a viewer.
Though I’m fairly certain that prolonged endings are a requirement in every Viggo Mortensen contract.
At the end of the day, though, when this movie worked – it worked well. And thus, I highly recommend everyone go out and see the movie whenever you get a chance.
3.9/5 – A very well done film.
ADDITIONAL MOVIE NEWS:
- Embarrassing scenes occurred at Warner Brothers studios this week when a fatal flaw in their automated copyright claiming program was highlighted. As found by TorrentFreak, Warner Brothers’ copyright client reportedly issued takedown notices on Warner Brothers’ own website, as well as official Amazon merchandise stores and the official websites for the films The Matrix and The Dark Knight (yep, those websites still exist).
This could all have been avoided, of course, if Warner Brothers didn’t insist on hiring about 50 megastar actors for each DC movie and actually paid a human being to handle their legal affairs instead. We’ll see if the lesson was learned.
No caption required. But here’s one anyway.
- Chatter has intensified recently amongst the press, particularly in Britain, about who will portray the legendary secret agent James Bond in his next motion picture. Names such as Idris Elba, Tom Hardy, Tom Hiddleston and Michael Fassbender have been thrown around, but reports are now saying that the next person to play James Bond may be a completely left-field choice – Daniel Craig. The star of Golden Compass has reportedly been offered a massive $150 million dollars to portray Bond for 2 more movies despite the actor reportedly claiming that he’d rather slash his own wrists than portray Bond again. Here’s hoping that the producers are also intending to give the PR department a raise. They’re gonna need it.
- If you’re a fan of 90’s rap music, then you’ll be extremely interested to hear that one of the more notorious incidents in rap history will be making it’s way to the silver screen. Johnny Depp has reportedly been signed to star on as Detective Russel Poole, the LAPD detective who investigated the shooting deaths of rappers Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. Nothing screams rap music more than a 2010’s Johnny Depp film, so people should get very excited about this one.
Pictured: A man in tune with rap culture
- Should you ever be sitting around channel surfing on a Sunday afternoon, there’s a high chance that you might have changed the channel to find yourself watching Shanghai Noon, a western starring Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan. In this scenario, you’d probably say “Oh yeah, I remember that film”. Well, get ready to remember it a whole lot more vividly, because director Jared Hess has just been hired to film the 3rd movie in the Shanghai series (Oh yeah. They did a sequel already, didn’t they?). What a time to be alive.