DENNIS SCHWARTZ Movie Reviews

CAPTAIN FANTASTIC (director/writer: Matt Ross; cinematographer: Stephane Fontaine; editor: Joseph Krings ; music: Alex Somers; cast:  Viggo Mortensen (Ben), George Mackay (Bo), Samantha Isler (Kielyr), Annalise Basso (Vespyr), Nicholas Hamilton (Rellian), Shree Crooks (Zaja ), Charlie Shotwell (Nai), Trin Miller (Leslie), Kathryn Hahn (Harper), Steve Zahn (Dave), Elijah Stevenson (Justin), Teddy Van Ee (Jackson), Erin Moriarty (Claire), Missi Pyle (Ellen), Frank Langella (Jack), Ann Dowd (Abigail), Rex Young (Traffic Cop); Runtime: 118; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Monica Levinson/Shivani Rawai/Jamie Patricot/Lynette Howell Taylor; Bleeker Street; 2016)

"A captivating family dramedy."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

A captivating family dramedy featuring a free-spirit patriarch, Ben (Viggo Mortensen), who chooses to raise his family away from a civilization he does not trust, in a so-called forest paradise, when faced with his wife Leslie's (Trin Miller) bi-polar illness. He thought that by being away from people and getting close to nature it might help her get better and curtail her violent mood swings.  

Writer-director Matt Ross
  ("28 Hotel Rooms"), a former actor, challenges us with questions about family loyalty, parenting, handling the overwhelming pop culture scene, and how best to survive in today's confusing world. His devoted dad hero takes an extreme position on his lifestyle choice, as he chooses to home teach the children in all subjects and in survival, hunting and musical skills.

Mortensen is the colorful Captain Fantastic, a rugged individualist, grounded in Plato's Republic and left wing politics, who is living off the land somewhere in the Pacific Northwest with a brood of six hearty children ranging in age from eight to seventeen. His wife ends her three month hospital stay by committing suicide. The family decide to get in their bus and attend her funeral in New Mexico, that's arranged by her wealthy irate father, Jack (Frank Langella), who blames Ben for her death. He threatens to have Ben arrested if he comes to the funeral, but the family comes to pay their respects and honor Leslie's wish to be cremated, Buddhist style, and not buried in the ground in a Christian ceremony like Jack ordered.

All the kids are given unique names, from the
eldest son, Bodevan (British actor George MacKay), to sons Nai (Charlie Shotwell) and Rellian (Nicholas Hamilton), along with daughters Zaja (Shree Crooks), Kielyr (Samantha Isler) and Vespyr (Annalise Basso).

All kinds of life lessons pop up, and when rebellion comes from the kids, Ben must re-examine things, curb his arrogance and his didactic ways to make sure he's getting things right for the kids while holding to his main principle of always telling the truth.

It's a film that could have caved-in to cliches and sentimentality, but despite a few artificial scenes (like the strained one of the traffic cop ticketing the bus for a faulty tail-light and the conclusion being too pat) the film relishes in
Mortensen's vigorous performance and with the likable kids providing most of the humor and charm. Supposedly the director was home schooled and had some experience with the hippie scene depicted, which helped keep things more authentic than your usual Hollywood sitcom family show.

REVIEWED ON 11/31/2016       GRADE: B

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"

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