An off-the-grid family reenters society after a tragedy.
Directed by Matt Ross
Starring Viggo Mortenson, George MacKay, and Frank Langella
Review by Jon Kissel
Below the fold, I’ve reposted my 2016 review of Captain Fantastic, and aside from some dated references to Angry Birds: The Movie, my thoughts on Matt Ross’ film are essentially the same. If anything, after President Trump and buying a home and a global pandemic, my disgust with the narcotizing comforts and regurgitated idiocies of American life have been accentuated, so I find myself more on the Cash family’s side despite the fact that if I ever met them, they would think I was another fat capitalist slob. Though I’m seduced by this brand of intellectual rigor, negative reviews of this film take issue with the audience-reinforcing slant that puts the Cash family on the left. The opposite film about doomsday preppers or white separatists or secluded revanchist Mormons would be incapable of generating any warm feelings, to the point that I wonder how a more conservative viewer would take Captain Fantastic as it is. Stripped of any choir-preaching/conservative-alienating, this is a film about humility, that thing which education is supposed to provide. More knowledge begets more questions, and these are knowledgeable children who are butting up against the edges of what their father can teach them. Ben Cash’s arc is about realizing that this experiment has run its course, and that continuance will lead to ruin. Retain the ability to question why it is that society does what it does, but have the humility to ask yourself the same question. The non-Cash characters aren’t asking ‘why’ about anything they do, and Ben’s gift to his children is that will be able to do exactly that. It’s inspiring and something of a brain worm. A film that sticks with the viewer is a successful one.
Of the major animation studios, Sony has consistently been the one with the most commitment to verifying an adult’s suspicion that children’s attention spans have dwindled to nothing. The colors are the brightest in Trolls, the voices are the most over-the-top in Hotel Transylvania. Even in their most successful outings like Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Into the Spiderverse, the level of content packed into the frame dwarfs Sony’s rivals at Pixar or Dreamworks. The Mitchells vs the Machines is the culmination of a decade-plus of a seizure-inducing animated aesthetic, but like Spiderverse, it provides a rationale for that aesthetic in the story or the characters. It’s also a harbinger of the TikTok-ification of movies, something that will be abused by worse filmmakers than clearly passionate director/writer/co-star Mike Rianda. The Mitchells vs the Machines does its best to keep this tech-averse viewer at arm’s length, but between the live-action cutaways and filter-dependent gags, Rianda has a full grasp of who his eccentric characters are at their core.
Tenet is a film that finds its director giving into his most irritating tendency. Christopher Nolan has never been able to judiciously parcel out his exposition dumps, and this is the most clunky and dense of his films. Inception and Interstellar at least had recognizable rules and stakes. Tenet is a series of unmotivated decisions that occur because some offscreen future version of the characters dictate that they must, a film obsessed with plot and uninterested in making the audience care what happens, a story whose most interesting ideas could be lifted out of it with no impact. Nolan clearly wants viewers to watch Tenet over and over again so they can decipher the machinations and the visual cues, but why would anyone put themselves through this disorienting headache of a trial for a second time? Congratulations on your 5000-piece jigsaw puzzle, Nolan, but maybe make it a picture of something more interesting than a brick wall.
In a good-faith book exchange with my very Catholic mother, I was given a book by a Catholic historian that was a clipped history of 2000 years of popes, crusades, and Papal States politics. The author couldn’t hide his distaste for the unmediated personal relationship with god that Protestant religions advocate for, under the supposition that something as powerful as religious ecstasy had to be moderated through the giant filter that is the Catholic church. Saint Maud provides a strong argument in the author’s favor. Alone and isolated and more than a little damaged, the protagonist of Rose Glass’ intense debut Saint Maud turns to religion where previous things like booze and hedonism have failed. At least with the latter, she was slowly killing herself with alcohol instead of all at once with acetone and zealotry.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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