Spared or Spoiled Movie Reviews: Captain Fantastic

The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.

Captain Fantastic (Bleecker StreetUniversal Pictures)

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Written & Directed by Matt Ross

Starring Viggo MortensenFrank LangellaKathryn Hahn & Steve Zahn

Philosophical and intellectual plot holes in abundance but Captain Fantastic is still a pretty good film. No really it is.

Captain Fantastic is the story of a family that has lived for years off the grid. Self-sufficient. Healthy and happy. Until family tragedy (the mother’s mental illness and death) forces them to rejoin the world, begrudgingly and hysterically. This is a fish out of water family. Who clearly benefit from healthy living and minimized technological distractions. But the children have no experience with modern society and very few social skills while at the same time being capable, confident, and extremely intelligent. It is a great movie. And in between yelling at it for being wrong about so many things, I liked it… I guess.

Verdict: SPARED

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The kids of Captain Fantastic are all amazing. (great actors and great characters) The idea is… interesting (I use that word a lot). The kids in this movie are all smarter than me (or is that smarter than I?). I really liked how bright the children are. I liked how well-trained they were for survival. But any well-rounded training would also include etiquette and social discourse. So I felt this was a tremendous plot hole. And any reading list would include books about human interaction (at least Dale Carnegie’s How to…). But the most egregious plot hole is that they call the mother a Buddhist throughout the film and yet her children know very little about Buddhist philosophy. I guess that part of the curriculum is forgotten.

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The “hippie” movement is made fun of quite a lot. And becomes a running joke throughout the film. They make fun of the idea of celebrating Noam Chomsky’s birthday. (HOLES!!!) I did enjoy the joke about not making fun of fat people (Americans are a fat and sickly population and it’s not a joke). But the children are told that it’s okay to make fun of Christians. Then they pretend to be ultra-religious Christian home-schooled kids to scare off police who come snooping around their bus. That was genius. But if you’re strongly Christian you might find that as annoying as I found the fake Buddhism.

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Captain Fantastic is very good from a pure enjoyment stand point but the way it flings around political terms and claims of being morally superior is troubling. The mother was supposedly a Buddhist but never taught her kids not to steal. Not to mention that she was wealthy and didn’t have to steal. The mother was supposedly a Buddhist but in the first scene they kill a deer. I guess the mother was a pretend Buddhist like most of the 60’s hippie children of rich parents. Not interested enough to do the research.

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Then there’s the nonsense about the mother’s mental disorder and her husband sending her to a facility away from her children and her natural food and her healthy lifestyle. Of course she died. And yes I’m saying 100% healthy living is better than all the antipsychotics that exist or will exist for helping to handle even the most serious mental afflictions. (I know this for a fact) There were so many of these social, economic, philosophical and political plot holes in their upbringing that it became annoying. I liked the ending though. It’s a good movie (really it is). Fantastic writing (everything but the philosophy stuff). Good performances from all the kids. Viggo Mortensen is great once again. It’s just the movie pretends to be smarter than it is.

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But of course, if they did things my way, there wouldn’t be a movie. The mother would still be alive. The kids would be capable of social discourse. They would grow their own food. Not kill animals for selfish reasons. And they surely would not have cut off Sweet Child O’ Mine before the change. That’s the best part of the song. What the hell, Matt?

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Captain Fantastic is a great film about family but a horrible film about philosophy. It’s like they had all of these heady ideas and in trying to find a balance with ignorance (that seems to be a running theme these days. Ignorance gets to have its say, in our schools, in our politics, and in our fucking movies) the film-makers poke fun or completely misinterpret simple ideas about compassion and healthy living.

You know you can entertain and still inform right?

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Captain Fantastic features a fantastic cast and a fantastic story and a fantastic premise, it just has a very tenuous grasp on its own philosophical concepts. But it’s still a delightful story with an excellent cast of fine young actors. So I liked it, I guess.

– Mel

Common Missteps When Facing a Superior Intellect

When facing someone of superior intelligence;

If they are a little smarter,
Without all the information,
It is possible to think that they are never wrong
Always right
And follow them or mirror them.

If they are a lot smarter,
Without all the information,
It is possible to think that they are tricking you somehow
That they are evil
And suspect every move they make.

And If they are a great deal smarter,
Without all the information,
It is possible to mistake them for stupid
Ignorant
And underestimate or belittle their actions.

But the best way to avoid these missteps is to;
Before following them,
Before accusing them,
Before judging them,

Get all the information.

-Mel

Honesty

There’s only one thing
I’ve ever said
That is 100% true

I don’t know
What that says about me
But I know what it says about
Honesty;
Everything else is a lie

From the little white lie
That doesn’t hurt anyone

And I don’t know
For sure what qualifies
As a harmless lie

Is it answering “I’m fine”
To the question, “How are you?”
When I feel like dirt

Is this a victimless lie?
I don’t know

It’s possible both parties would benefit
From knowing how I actually feel
Or maybe the other person
Really really really doesn’t want to know

Is it saying “He looks like he lost weight.”
Or “Her new haircut is cute,”
Wishing a rival “Good Luck.”
Or saying “Sure I’d love to see pictures of your baby.”
When it’s not true at all?

I don’t know but sometimes I feel
Some would be better served by the truth

The
“Good god you’re getting fat. Lay off the donuts.”

Or
“Sweetie it really only matters if you like your hair but frankly I don’t.”

Saying
“Dude, I will break you. Bring your “A” game or you will get stomped.”

And
“No one wants to see pictures of that ugly ass kid. Leave me alone.”

From the little lie
All the way to the big brass,
Soul crushing,
Relationship destroying,
Conscience burning lie that
I will not mention here
(A lie of omission)
And you probably don’t want to hear
(A lie of convenience)
But the truth is
I don’t know

There’s only one thing
I’ve ever said
That is 100% true

There have been
Many many many
(One many too many)
Partial truths
Half truths
Statements steeped in truth
But seasoned with inaccuracies

I don’t know how many
Or how many times I’ve said
Something that’s ostensibly true
Yet implied a complete un-truth
(But it’s a lot)

It is the most popular class;
The  Not Entirely True

From something as innocuous as
My name is…

Sure, my name is what I call myself
My name is Mel
But that’s not entirely true
My given name is Melvin
But no one calls me that
(No one with any affection for me)
And even that isn’t my full name
Or my real name
Or the name written on my heart

But I don’t know
If that counts as a lie?
Of course it doesn’t, right?
Let’s just call it 95 to 99% true
And that’s a fact about which I’m pretty confident

What about all the things I’m not sure of
And all the things
I don’t know

There’s only one thing
I’ve ever said
That is 100% true

Not I love you
or I miss you
Nothing that could be quantified
Or qualified
Can be 100% true

Nothing that involves precision
Not the time
Nor the weather

It was true a second ago
It was true last week
However, it is no longer true

And to be honest with you
It wasn’t completely accurate
WHEN I SAID IT!

Science…
Math…
That’s just me parroting something someone else told me.

Am I splitting hairs?
I don’t know
Let’s call it 90 to 95% true

True enough
But not 100%
Faith.

Or we could get all existential
And I could say
“I am.”
There is nothing so fundamental as
My own existence
I
Am

I think therefore
I am
Blogging
I am
Writing
I am
Re-writing
I am

…Only about 85% sure that I even exist.

You could be dreaming me.
We could be dreaming each other
I don’t know

Honestly
I don’t know if I will post this
I don’t know if anyone will read this
I don’t know if this is making any sense

Because as it turns out
The lie I have told the most often
The one thing I have lied about more than anything else
Call it
My “go to” lie
My automatic lie
More than likely
My first lie

The lie that I keep repeating
Is also the only thing I am completely
And totally sure about
You see

There’s only one thing
I’ve ever said
That is 100% true

And I’ve said it a lot.

– Mel