Viggo Mortensen's Hippie Heroics in Captain Fantastic

The movie Captain Fantastic sounds like an action adventure, and it is, if you consider parenting a thrilling sport. The opening shows bare chested young people making their way through the forest, foraging for food, dismembering prey, a primitive tribe. But no, the movie takes place in the "so-called" present civilized world, in a family whose father played with handsome hippie looks by Viggo Mortensen, home schools his six children in the ways of the wilderness, that is, if you call a teepee a home. Beautifully acted with a stellar cast including Kathryn Hahn, Steve Zahn, and the great Frank Langella, as written and directed by Matt Ross, Captain Fantastic is the best movie about parenting I've ever seen.

At a luncheon at the Explorers Club celebrating this film, Viggo Mortensen praised Matt Ross' direction, but especially his script. Although the circumstances become dire, there are no heroes or villains, even though you root for Viggo Mortensen's Ben whose parenting skills do not comply with life in the real world. That place is occupied with full authority, by Frank Langella, whose wealth and values make him squarely conventional, an antidote to his son-in-law's more reckless life style. Mortensen praises the script for seeing everyone's point of view. Matt Ross' early years have some resemblance to this remarkable story.

Perhaps best known for his role as Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings franchise, Viggo Mortensen speaks generously about his work in indies -he was a William S. Burroughs inspired Old Bull Lee in On the Road-- and in David Cronenberg's films A Dangerous Method, Eastern Promises and A History of Violence. Of Cronenberg: "He's a great teacher."

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.