Saturday, May 6, 2017

Captain Fantastic (2016)

Director: Matt Ross
Writer: Matt Ross
DOP: Stephane Fontaine
Cast: Viggo Mortensen, George MacKay, Samantha Isler

In the forests of 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.

It is one of those films which has a very interesting premise which keeps you very much engaged during the initial parts of the film but kind of peters out a little bit towards the end once the novelty starts wearing off. I was very much reminded of the film 'Frank' not just because of the similarity in the color tone used. In one sequence from the film, the father asks his daughter to give her interpretation of the book she is reading, which apparently was Nabokov's 'Lolita'. She explains that she is conflicted about her attitude towards the protagonist Humbert as she is both repulsed by him as well as have empathy towards him. That is pretty much how the audience is supposed to feel towards Viggo Mortensen's character in the film as many of the things that he is doing with his kids can be perceived as child abuse while the initial half of the film have us appreciating their lifestyle. He is challenged during the second half of the film by his sister and his father-in-law. George Mackay, playing the eldest son, is excellent in his role with the character conflicted about whether to join any of the Ivy League colleges to which he has got admissions to. But it is the younger son who calls bullshit on their father's ways of doing things.

It is overall a very fun watch with many laugh out loud moments as well as some contemplative ones. It is not as good as what critics have made out to be but still a very good watch. Another film that I was reminded of was Yorgos Lanthimos' 'Dogtooth' even though the treatment and its philosophy is totally different as Captain Fantastic is totally honest to his kids about the ways of the world. One problematic aspect I had with the film was the transition of Viggo Mortensen's character from what seems to be quite a wise guy to a caricatured version of a hippie leftist as the film progresses.  I was not totally convinced by it. Anything Viggo Mortensen is in these days is a recommended watch as he has been a champion of small indie films after his early success with the big budget TLoTR trilogy.

PS: When you image search 'Captain Fantastic' in Google, Steven Gerrard turns up among the top results. Another fun fact is that Matt Ross, the writer-director of the film, is the Gavin Belson from 'Silicon Valley'.

Rating: 3.5/5