Little Miss Sunshine for the revolutionary, with an Into the Wild aspiration, Captain Fantastic is the non-traditional family film that fits into the genre conventions. A lively reflection of hippie counter-culture, Matt Ross signs a moving and bubbly tale about struggling to raise children while staying true to one’s ideals.
Father of six Ben Cash (Viggo Mortensen) has brought up his children in the forest, on a strict diet of exercise and knowledge, following the beatnik fantasies of abandoning the mainstream lifestyle. Having raised a group of super-intelligent free spirits, completely unadapted to American society (to quote the film, “under-educated and over-medicated”), the bohemian father is forced to face the “real world” and its attacks on his unconventional choices.
The confrontation of the Cash misfits with the world beyond their forest is, as expected, hilarious. A delightful script and a wonderfully politically incorrect (read: incorrect according to the conservative mentality) humour keep the ball rolling. Captain Fantastic follows a reasonably conventional narrative structure and eventually solves all problems in a feel-good way. The film’s visual devices may not be as radical as the family life choices, but Matt Ross’s second feature works charmingly as both a crowd-pleaser and a provocation.
Captain Fantastic criticises both the flower child dream and the capitalist consumer society, using extreme examples of both to make its point very clear: a no-hunting-no-food way of life on one side, and multi-millionaire mansions on the other. The hippie dream comes to terms with American contemporary reality, but there is enough depth in the film to find fault with both lifestyles and recognise the problems inherent to both.
The cast is adorable, all six young actors portraying individualised members of the outsider tribe wonderfully, and stealing hearts particularly with their declarations true to the most uncompromising leftist culture. Viggo Mortensen makes a great father, his fantastic (pun intended) performance guiding the show as lead man of both the family and the film.
Covering the duration of a trip to save their mother from being buried against the Buddhist custom, Captain Fantastic is also a road trip film, as the highways of America seem to be a Cannes mantra this year (American Honey and Hell or High Water). For all the hippie families out there, Matt Ross has got your back.
Captain Fantastic is released nationwide on 9th September 2016.
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Watch the trailer for Captain Fantastic here: