hopscotchee: steve zahn score: 83 rating: R time: 119 minutes
although it has been some time since this movie came out (initially released in the 'old days' of 2016), this brightly colored, lovely location-scouted, tenderly touching and twisty family-centered drama is no disappointment, living up to its underrated academy acclaim. bringing together the offbeat characteristics and attributes of a family living off the grid and the contrastingly different commonalities of everyday society, captain fantastic boldly takes on a controversial plot, questioning morals, ego, and the greater good. both memorable and inquisitive, its story is powerful and unique, and should not be forgotten by the passing years.
before anything else, the most noticeable elements in this movie that have to be discussed were the refreshing and crisp cinematography (claps, claps, claps) and outstanding locations (claps, claps, claps). as soon as you press play, and get passed the 55%-disturbing intro scene with bo (just warning those who are squeamish ahead of time - seriously, what an intro), you cannot escape the allure and vibrancy of the gleaming landscapes. not only appropriately setting the cash family's off-the-grid life in the middle of a luscious forest, located in the state of washington, this was also made for a very pretty watch through the invigorating cinematography. deceptively done through not heavily dramatic filtering (in other words, not moody, dark, riverdale-y filters), this touch gave the movie a very clean outlook, that perfectly aligned with the just-as-stimulating plot. another thing this cinematography gave the way for was to nicely emphasize the cash family's wildly elaborate clothes. now, yes, the clothes were on the tad unrealistic side for a family being out in the wilderness, even if they were not everyday wear and did theatrically push the 'outcast-y' and 'eccentric' family-type a bit too much, nonetheless, the cinematography really helped highlight the bright colors, making the scenes fun and pleasing to the eye.
secondly, another element that captain fantastic lead powerfully with was its stirring and morally complex story telling. sparking controversy between the conflicts of ego, reputation, and honor, this film's elevated sophistication was deeply developed through its main-plot, revolving around (spoiler) the back-and-forth debate about leslie's funeral. brilliantly so, this allowed the movie to spotlight on the contrasting beliefs between ben and leslie's parents about how to handle leslie's passing, yet, being the eloquent film that it is, the story neither diminishes one's value over the other or makes one belief look superior. due to this, the audience is only submerged deeper into the story, left formulating their own options about who they side or agree with. equally this crafts the piece as a whole into a very eye opening tale on the idea of respectfully saying goodbye to someone you love and respectfully following their wishes, presenting the chewing idea that the ideal and traditional concept of a funeral is not thoughtful to the departed in remembering what they had but really for the present to cope with their own loss. and then, like any good story, the plot turns, becoming more high-minded, when (spoiler) this idea is potentially refuted when ben's own ego towards his standards and untraditional ways of life causes one of his daughters harm. finally, spinning into his personal reflection, where he recognizes that everything he has fought society about (ego, reputation, and honor) equally applies to him too, the core message of this film is very deep and enduring.
likewise, only amplifying the impact of the film, props go out to the casting director for their selections. one of the best things about this movie was how it felt untraditional yet whole, and that was all thanks to the amazing group of actors and actresses. looking at the cash kids alone, this movie involved a ton of the characters from a range of different ages. because of this, the film was easily relatable to a wider audience, making the attachment more valuable. hand-and-hand, the uncustomary performances that the actors and actresses gave moved the story's emotions from scene to scene, while creating the movie's offbeat personality. a specific example is how easily the kids could break into a cry. its shear suddenness and lack of a build up (spoiler), like when ben has to break the news to his kids about their mother's death, took you off guard, however, the franticness of these reactions and vulnerability only connected you more to the plot, creating a greater impact. (also, sidenote time, can we just shout out to george mackay - like peter pan much?? from the unmentionable beginning scene to the (spoiler) father-son-disputes to the comical relief of his (ahhh!!) so cringey proposal scene, his charm in the movie just beams as bright as his chipper smile and made for an enjoyable watch. however, sidesidenote, we were not fans of (spoiler) him cutting his hair at the end. no - no - no - no - no).
now, prior to closing this review, we do want to address that the ending of this movie does come with some warnings. for a movie surrounded around the uniqueness and differences around the cash family, you, as the audience, are rooting for them in the end. so, then to (spoiler) have them have to compromise and assimilate into the modern-day culture was quite unsatisfying. we do understand that not all endings have to be satisfying, but knowing that this is supposed to be a 'happier' - more likable - ending (meaning that it didn't feel like the filmmakers were trying to purposely cloud your day with it), this just felt. . . .wrong. plus, if it were to end with the family continuing their path and more of a character-development story, the message would connect to the greater theme of being yourself and not giving in to the 'bigger' culture.
regardless, all there is to say is that captain fantastic is a fantastic watch :)
-- thanks, steve xo