Encouraged to see Captain Fantastic, let’s say I found it less than fantastic. Told that the director wanted to imagine a life where he was “completely present” in his children’s lives, I found mixed messages rather than it thought-provoking. Do we praise this type of “home-schooling” or do we condemn it? Do we teach respect or do we “stick it to the man?” Just how important is balance in our lives? How much can we learn from books without the real-life encounters associated therewith? Certainly, Captain Fantastic is a visceral experience, with your emotions likely trending negative. Nominated for numerous awards, mostly for Best Actor, I give Captain Fantastic 2.5 Gavels and it receives an 83% Rotten Tomatoes rating with an 85% Audience score.
Disillusioned with the free-enterprise system, public schools, and our medical system, Jack and Leslie raise their six children in the NorthWest forests. With no technological distractions, the kids receive rigorous educational and physical training, the former leaning far left-wing. But with no contact with others, their socialization skills lag far behind. When Leslie dies, her father forces Jack to confront how well he prepares the kids for the real world. And, once the children discover “hot dogs and cola (poison water),” will they be satisfied to remain isolated?
Viggo Mortensen plays our erstwhile single father, Jack, with absolute certainty Father Knows Best. Most of us know that no one knows anything about parenthood with absolute certainty. I liked him better in Green Book. As his father-in-law, Frank Langella despises Jack, just as certain that he commits a form of child abuse. Of the kids, the eldest, Bo, gets the most screen time. Acted by George MacKay, you just saw him in 1917. Rated-R, the kids in the film may not get to see it. Lots of foul language and some nudity in this one.
As shown in the featured image, the opening scene in Captain Fantastic has a Lord of the Flies feel. Is it really a survival skill to pretend to be religious to avoid police investigation, to fake illness to steal food, or to unearth a casket to ensure cremation? Although understandable in the context of the movie, I found it disturbing in the context of life.
As The Wrap points out “just when you think the film is smugly poising Ben’s rebel-outsider mentality against the close-mindedness of his late wife’s parents, Captain Fantastic acknowledges that some of Ben’s parenting techniques might actually be endangering his own children.” The Hollywood Reporter quips “this is really a movie for upper-middle class hipsters who once fancied themselves firebrands and status quo-challengers in college, but now consider only buying organic food at Whole Foods and not vaccinating their kids to be radical acts.” If so, in the final analysis, it seems I was not the target audience.