Viggo Mortensen is nominated for Best Actor for his role in Captain Fantastic as an ultra-liberal but in some ways also ultra-conservative father who raises his family in the woods of the Pacific Northwest without electricity or any other connection to the outside world except for his library of great works of literature and philosophy.
The conservative part of Mortensen’s philosophy is that he teaches his children to hunt and also trains them in hand-to-hand combat including knife fighting. They’ll be ready for the nuclear holocaust or whatever else causes the end of civilization! And he has six children: what kind of liberal has more than two kids?
The plot of the movie is that Mortensen gets word that his wife, who has been hospitalized for three months for mental illness, has died, and he takes his six children on a road trip to New Mexico to her funeral, where Mortensen and his family clash with his wife’s wealthy parents who want their grandchildren to be raised normally.
The movie very clearly shows some of the limitations of Mortensen’s child rearing philosophy. For example, when his oldest son meets a hot girl at the motor home park, he has no clue how to behave around her. If you want your sons to get married and give you grandchildren, I don’t think that raising them in the wilderness with no human contact outside of your immediate family is a good way to go.
Sorry to talk about the ending (spoiler alert!), but I feel very let down. It seems like a cop-out. After his daughter breaks some bones falling off the roof of his in-laws’ house, Mortensen has the realization that he’s not actually a good father and his children are not equipped to deal with civilization at all. So he leaves them with their grandparents and drives away. Thus the message here is that the ultra-liberal left has graduated from Utopia, radical anti-capitalism and Walden to become SWPLs who go to Ivy League schools and then work in self-actualizing careers, preferably in Manhattan. Right?
Nope! Wait a minute, that’s not what happens! Mortensen’s kids were hiding in the back of the bus, and then they steal their mother’s body from the cemetery to give her the proper Buddhist cremation that she wanted for herself, the oldest son goes off to Namibia instead of going to college (huh?) and the rest of the family goes back to the Pacific Northwest, but now they live in a small house with electricity instead of in the woods, and they go to school. What’s the point of that? Is that a happily-ever-after ending or something?
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Does Mortensen have any chance in hell of beating out Denzel Washington, Casey Affleck and Ryan Gosling for his role in a movie that’s probably too weird even for Hollywood? Not likely.
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Both of the older daughters are redheads. I tell you, redheaded women are suddenly a big thing. Emma Stone from La La Land. The foster mom played bye Nicole Kidman in Lion. The girl linguist in Arrival.
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I’m afraid that I’m not going to be able to watch Hidden Figures or Hacksaw Ridge before the awards ceremony. Which I’m not even sure I want to watch because surely there will be a lot of Trump hatred on display.