Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Captain Fantastic - A Movie Review

When I watch a movie, I typically really like it or really hate it; I rarely have an in-between. I will make no effort not to reveal major plot points.

Let's discuss: was this a merely a good movie or was it a GREAT MOVIE? Is Viggo Mortenson a great man or THE BEST MAN?

I liked this flick. It wasn't perfect but it scratched a bunch of cinematic and thematic itches that I enjoy.

The opening scene introduces us to a bunch of feral kids who had the overwhelming luck to be sired by Aragorn, son of Arathorn, who is posing here as a man named Ben Cash.  (I'm so sorry, Viggo. That role is going to follow you to the grave.)  Cut quickly to their home base, which is a prepper's paradise.  These opening scenes make it obvious that someone has had long, intensive thoughts about what living off the grid would look like, down to its daily practicalities. This exposition was more than just showing how these people live. You get an insight into their values and, as you're counting heads, you keep looking for the missing person. Where's the mother? 

And therein is the plot: living off the grid has not paired well with the matriach's bipolar depression, and she's off elsewhere getting her seratonin re-adjusted. Ten minutes in to the film, we get the news: she's recently killed herself. 

Our movie then puts the family to the test. Bound by their loyalty to honor her burial wishes (and to say their last good-byes), they embark on a Great American Road Trip to where the mother's parents are holding a funeral for a daughter they lost a long, long time ago. Ben and his kids are strangers in a strange land and their presence is a foil to their bewildered family members at how American culture, consumerism, and capitalism has made us a bizarre people.

{The premise reminded me of a real-life story of a family going off the grid and trying to make it work. This Life Is In Your Hands was a great slap in the face to a younger me, and a reminder that women often bear the brunt of a move like this. There's more complexity to housewifery when you take away machines and add in growing your own foods. And, like the families in this movie and that book, when hormonal birth control is eschewed and sex is your only licit vice, you get children. If you're nutritionally imbalanced and your body chemistry is off to begin with, you get depression.}

This movie really has it all. Here's a list of things within it that will confuse you if you try to put them all together at once: graphic animal death, full frontal male nudity, Esperanto, Noam Chomsky, grave robbing, and a surfeit of precocious homeschooled children spouting ideology. 

{Ben's line -- "It's just a penis; every man has one." reminded me of this clip from Conan, with the excellent Flula Borg: "Have you not seen a man's anus before? Well, there's another one."}

The older I get, the more I can ruin a story. There were a number of things that I knew wouldn't stand up to further questioning. If the mother's will did contain language about her body after death (and it likely didn't -- wills tend not to go into that realm), then all it would have taken was a court order to halt her father from hijacking the funeral and keeping Ben from taking custody of his wife's body. Furthermore, as her husband, Ben de facto would have had rights to her body over Leslie's father. But take away that and you don't have a movie, so I guess I'll let legal details slide. And how did that family live off the grid -- in the woods, in the Pacific Northwest -- throughout winter? i did not spy a winterized yurt in those homebase shots. Was a bus really the best method of transport in and out of there? Were they squatting on land in a national forest or did they merely own thousands of acres of prime forestland? 

There were other things that annoyed me: the first and final scenes were self-indulgent. "These people live off the grid! Let's watch the eldest son kill a deer with nothing but a knife and then eat its still-warm heart!" Nope, too much. "Let's have the children sing the mother's favorite song as her body burns on the funeral pyre in front of them! And let's have the song be "Sweet Child of Mine!" Whatever takes your mind off your mother's embalmed flesh melting off her body, I guess. Stop trying so hard; we get it. They're off-kilter.

Still, I enjoyed it. A movie that tickles my senses and gives me days worth of thoughts to chew on is one I'll watch again. 

1 comment:

  1. I wanted to reply to your comment on my WOYWW post (thank you for visiting, btw :) ) I find doing morning pages when I get up actually helps clear my groggy head. I see them as a brain-dump - everything that's in my messy head gets written down. It's rarely intense or profound, or even coherent! Often it's in my own shorthand and barely legible. When I've done them, I rarely re-read them - it's really not worth it! But what I then do, often later in the day, is much clearer and more focussed :) There may be no connection between dumping random thoughts in my MPs and later, clearer thinking, but I rather think there may be :) I confess, I am a convert!
    PS I really will reply to your last lovely letter and treasures, but I can't honestly say when... I'm a hopeless penpal, aren't I?? xx