Idealistic to a fault
Captain Fantastic (2016): In the forests of the Pacific Northwest, a father devoted to raising his six kids with a rigorous physical and intellectual education is forced to leave his paradise and enter the world, challenging his idea of what it means to be a parent.
Wow. That IMDB description was way more interesting than the movie itself. So this movie was very polarizing for me. On the one hand it does introduce some very interesting concepts. The idea of a father raising six kids in his equivalent of a paradise and then their struggles to cope with being forced into the world is interesting! But, the payoff is sooooooo unsatisfactory, and the setup to get to that struggle is so weak! This is a 118 minute movie with about 75 minutes of something that belongs in a different film. The first hour of this film plays more like a comedy with serious parts dripped in: the kids all have a great report with each other and their interactions are funny. There. Just summed it up. But then for about 45 minutes, which is the part where the kids themselves are struggling to adapt to the real world, it turns into a gripping a hugely interesting drama.
Let's talk about that, shall we? Because that's certainly the best part of this film. During this there are some brilliant scenes between Viggo Mortensen and his children. While four of his six kids all have boring (or nonexistent) character arcs, two of the four-the two oldest boys-have AMAZING arcs. There's a scene where Mortensen comes to discover that his oldest son was accepted to every important college imaginable. This is easily the best moment of the film, and shows that this film is capable of greatness. But the film wastes too much time debating over "how we should raise our kids" or "how to stick it to the man." Like, this is fine. I have no problem with a film that talks about that. But if you are going to talk about that.....do it in a believable way.
And that's the big problem with this film. It's simply not believable. The great Frank Langella is in this film, and he is a fantastic example of what a great actor can do to a shoddy script. His character is clearly written to be the "bad guy" of the film, and yet Langella adds so much depth to the character, (the father of Mortensen's deceased wife) that it exposes just how shallow the film really is. See, at one point the middle boy threatens to leave Mortensen and stay with his Langella because he blamed Mortensen for his mother's death. Interesting, right? Well, the film could not move past this fact fast enough. Meanwhile, Langella is left to simply "threaten to call the cops," in response to Mortensen not taking too kindly to letting go of his kid, though thanks to Langella's performance he expresses great dismay throughout the entire sequence. Also, Kathryn Hahn is totally miscast here. Sure her role is just another "sister/wife" role in Hollywood, but during her few brief scenes she's never allowed to be herself. Aka be funny. (Unfortunately) There are a million actresses in Hollywood that can just be a generic "the sister" character so if you're going to cast her at least let her be herself! Yet another role delegated to the actresses of Hollywood trying to get by.
Though on the topic of casting, ohhhhhh boy does Annalise Basso do the best she can to make up for her totally uninteresting character. All the daughters in this film are completely wasted as they always stay idealistically true with the beliefs of their father and don't even at one point question how they live their lives, but Basso kills her role nonetheless. Move over, Chloë Grace Moretz. You just might have some company. You may have noticed that I have not talked about Viggo Mortensen's performance much. That's because it is the best thing in this film. Easily. As much as I'm not fond on the rest of this film, Mortensen is simply terrific as the father, and he does deliver a pretty dang good performance. Though is it worthy of a best actor nomination........? No. I think he got this because director Matt Ross is well known around the business and Mortensen simply does not receive as much recognition as he deserves. However if it were up to me I would've given the nomination to Russell Crowe from The Nice Guys. Probably. I would've at least given something to The Nice Guys. Anyway, I think I am taking a very indirect route of saying that ultimately.....this film is fine. It's not bad, but it's not good either. It takes the path of least resistance, and maybe if I was watching it on a warm summer's night after some baseball I'd enjoy it, but in the cold dark of January under a certain orange menace I'm having none of it. On to the next one.
The Critique: Idealistic to a fault, Captain Fantastic takes the least interesting route to tell it's story and ultimately flops in the process, despite a great (but not Oscar-worthy) performance from its lead.
The Recommendation: You know, I'll stand by what I said previously: if it's a warm summer's night and you're perusing Netflix and see this, you could do worse. Otherwise, there are better Oscar-worthy films worthy of your time right now.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 5/10 Average
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