Captain Fantastic
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Captain Fantastic

Is there an emotion I didn’t feel watching this story of a non-traditional family, trying to stay together after the wife and mother disappears?

Matt Ross’ film reveals itself beautifully, capturing us up in the trials and devoted dynamics of a rough and scruffy father, raising his six children in the forest of the Pacific Northwest. We discover that what initially looks shocking is not necessarily what it seems. We find ourselves rooting for this team to win against the odds. But should we be?

Several movies like this have been made where the anti-heroes were hippies, ex-cons, drug dealers. We’re seduced into loving them, wanting these basically-just-like-us-but-they’re-not people to survive their way, not to conform. And, mostly, we know what the end of the story is going to be. Captain Fantastic’s going to have a really hard time being fantastic inside four walls and a roof.

But, while he’s foraging in the woods, commandeering a battered old school bus, you can’t take your eyes off Viggo Mortensen’s loving yet, impossible Ben. It’s a wonderful performance, chancy and captivating. Even facing possible defeat, Mortensen modulates Ben’s urgent pulse, slowing things down but never quite losing what draws us as close as we find our selves, surprisingly, to be.

Ross, too, orchestrates the unfurling of the story with great care. He’s got a great eye for actors and an almost innate understanding of the discipline of intimate drama. I say almost. Because, while I pretty much loved the first 2/3 of the family drama, I found myself let loose by a lengthy final act that just didn’t feel right with the rest of this otherwise pretty fantastic movie.


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