We’re continuing our series on the 2016 indie scene today, but now it’s time to really get into the greatness that this year has to offer. Not that The Fits or Everybody Wants Some were bad, but they weren’t exactly movies that I could forsee becoming staples of my life in the future. But in the case of today’s film, this summer’s Captain Fantastic, I know that I will be watching this many times over going forward. So let’s take a brief look at this unique and delightful film.
Stories about dysfunctional families are not new in Hollywood, and they certainly aren’t new in the independent film scene. At the mention of the words “dysfunctional family” and “indie” the mind instantly jumps to a whole slew of films; Little Miss Sunshine, August Osage County and The Royal Tanenbaums topping the list. Captain Fantastic’s story isn’t exactly new, following the story of a schismatic father, characterized in a wildly entertaining performance by Viggo Mortensen, and his numerous children, who have been raised in the woods being taught to live off the land and acquiesce to his anti-establishment doctrine, who at the hands of a tragedy are forced to return to civilization and struggle with the tribulations of conformity. This story is not necessarily new, and its execution is reasonably formulaic in structure, yet the final product is a delightful foray into a loveable family’s endurance of an event that proves cataclismic to their universe. The dialogue is fresh and funny, and effectively inspires wishful thinking into the audience watching it. The director, Matt Ross, understands his audience very well and plays on our desire to live in the woods and abandon the government influence. Presumably those watching this film don’t already subsist off of resources found in the wilderness, so the film has a very liberating feeling to it, as if it’s allowing the viewer to live out their fantasies of abandoning the establishment around them. The entire film is unexpectedly heartening, instilling hope and hapiness with its fun and merry scenes. I have observed some people on the internet disparaging this film for not going the extra mile and really getting in depth into the psychosis of the individuals in the woods. To this fact, I don’t really understand what they’re talking about. This film didn’t pretend to be an introspective character study. Right from the beginning it is established that this movie is going to be fun. It does have moments of honesty and emotion, such as a really intriguing discussion between a father and his son, but it never claimed to be lachrymose or overtly dogmatic. I believe that for what it is, Captain Fantastic is a wonderful film. It is full of delightful moments and marvelously colorful chatacters that work together to make a benign and creative ride. It doesn’t shy away from more serious moments, but it doesn’t attempt to be a serious film. My only complaint with the film is that it can be somewhat formulaic in structure, but that is easily forgiven when the formula creates a film as entertaining as this one. I love Captain Fantastic, and intend to watch it many, many times in the future.
All images are from Captain Fantastic, from Electric Hands Entertainment