|'There's an argument here for compromise and seeing the positives in different viewpoints, without abandoning deeply held beliefs and convictions about How Life Should Be Lived. In our current climate, that's a bold message.'|
If current sociopolitical events make you yearn for a future of isolationism where you don't need to worry about Brexit, Trump or, well... people, then Captain Fantastic is your 'how to' manual.
Living somewhere in the Oregon woods, Viggo Mortensen and his tribe of lost boy-like children fend for themselves, meditate amongst tall trees, kill their own dinner and generally seem to have a swell time of it. But, soon, their hospitalised mother passes away, and that means a road trip back to society and a brush with Grandpa Jack (Frank Langella), who just wants everyone to live 'normal' lives.
Written and directed by Matt Ross (his second feature after 2012's 28 Hotel Rooms), the story occasionally feels a little obvious and in the business of teaching trite lessons. If the family's idealised existence isn't enough, it's only a matter of time before they are tested and come out winners; they know everything about everything, including the fact that Christmas should be a joyless time because it celebrates a 'magical elf' rather than Noam Chomsky. It's difficult to argue with that logic but logic doesn't get you everywhere. If you can't see the family at least partially learning this lesson at some point in the narrative, by the way, then you're not paying attention.
The too-obvious bout of third act conflict arrives to signify the above realisation with all the subtlety of a chainsaw to an idealised forest. Is Ben (Mortensen) really on the road to abandoning his values? You decide, but make it quick because the bait and switch happens so fast the film hardly has time to sell it to you.
The message come the finale though feels, thankfully, less rammed down your throat and less in awe of the family's way of living. There's an argument here for compromise and seeing the positives in different viewpoints, without abandoning deeply held beliefs and convictions about How Life Should Be Lived. In our current climate, that's a bold message. You can take the time to understand why people voted for Trump whilst still wanting to get him and his straw-man hair out of The White House with every fibre of your being, just to take one example, which may make relevant sense. Mortensen is reliably sound and the young supporting cast are all solid, though George MacKay feels a little uncertain and gets saddled with a horrible 'recluse-meets-real-world' set of scenes opposite Jessica Jones' Erin Moriarty.
There's also a compelling argument here for honesty and a handful of joyous road trip moments, which call to mind fun indies of yesteryear. It's not quite The Way Way Back or Little Miss Sunshine, but it plays in the same area.