For Reel

Captain Fantastic (2016)
August 12, 2016, 2:07 pm
Filed under: Reviews | Tags: , ,

Director: Matt Ross
4 Stars
Captain FantasticAttempting to create a morally complex story about what are ultimately hugely likable, sympathetic characters can pose a problem to the writer—refusing to bring the characters to task for their actions might promote the idea that the presented way of living is the ideal one. Conversation over. Early in Captain Fantastic, many of the struggles that befall the family led by Viggo Mortensen’s patriarch are depicted as being simply unjust. But if Captain Fantastic doesn’t go all the way with questioning how viable of an alternative this lifestyle can be, it does show an awareness of the problems it poses—an incident late in the film is meant to determine the stakes of such reckless living. But the film’s best scene about this conflict occurs when Mortensen’s family is sharing a meal at a dinner table with a typical suburban family. If the “civilized” kids are rendered as too dense and clichéd, what the scene does particularly well is complicating its sense of audience sympathy—as much as the wild family has been wrought as loving, their snobbish disrespect of their host’s household goes from being charming to hugely uncomfortable. These are the moments where Captain Fantastic is at its best—it’s frequently messy, making one reevaluate the film’s proposals at every turn. Moreover, it demonstrates writer/director Matt Ross’ sensitive dealing with character, and with the father in particular he has invented a remarkably complex example of fatherhood. The film is a touching account of how families deal with facing a situation that makes them feel truly vulnerable for the first time.

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