The movie Captain Fantastic asks the question of whether or not it’s possible to home-school and raise an entire family in the wilderness. At the end of this film, the answer to this question is both yes and no. Like almost everything in life, no matter what you decide to do, there is an upside and very often an equal downside. The children in this movie who range in age from 6 to about 18 are all extremely intelligent mainly because their parents brilliantly taught them just about everything. The older boy is so well educated he is able to get into just about all of the best Ivy League schools in the country, but the truth is that if all you know is just in books then you are missing something and you will have a very hard time fitting into the real world.
The idea to move into the woods with their family is because of the father played by Viggo Mortensen thought that he could help his wife with her bipolar mental disorder by getting her out of her law practice and into the wilderness. This seemed to work for a time but at the beginning of this film he finds out that she has committed suicide by slitting her wrists in the mental hospital she is in. Her husband and remaining six children are of course devastated but continue their Spartan life of constant education and exercise which even includes dangerous mountain climbing up the face of a mountain. This is one part of the wilderness life, along with learning how to fight with knives that could be considered child abuse.
When Mortensen’s wife dies he finds out from her father than he is not allowed to attend her funeral but like a true hippie and protester of everything that is considered normal and safe in the world, he decided to take his entire family to her funeral anyway, which causes great conflict between him and his wife’s mother and father. While at the funeral Mortensen’s tells the entire procession that his wife did not want to be buried, but instead she wanted to be cremated and flushed down a toilet! This revelation creates the ending part of the movie where the family intends to kidnap his dead wife’s body and grant her final wishes. After the funeral, his wife’s father played very well by Frank Langella tries to take the children from him, citing child abuse which is another conflict that creates the final act of this movie.
This film was filmed in the Pacific Northwest and some of the scenery that was shot is very impressive. The killing of a deer at the opening of this movie and some male frontal nudity from Mortensen are two rather disturbing scenes to sit through but overall, this movie is pretty average in terms of over the top scenes or dialogue. I do recommend this movie.
When Mr. Hollands Opus came out in 1995 I thought it was going to be a run of the mill average movie. It was also a very long time since Richard Dreyfuss had a big hit, the last time probably was the “Goodbye Girl” in 1977 where he won the Academy Award for best actor. Dreyfuss is another example of a very talented actor who was once at the top of the world and the lightning never struck again for him, proving what most of already know, that the acting profession is one of the most fickle and difficult ones to get in and stay in for the long term even after you achieve great success.
Mr. Hollands Opus is about a music teacher in an average high school whose real ambition is to be a great music composer. At the beginning of the movie Holland takes the teaching job temporarily, hoping that his real life and career as a music composer will begin someday as he never stopped trying to compose a great symphony through the entire movie. This movie does a great job of reminding us all of life’s reality of having to make a living and raising a family can very often takes away our dreams and largely because of this reality Mr. Holland stays at this high school for 30 years until budget cuts take away his beloved job that eventually proved to be his true calling in life.
After a period of time Holland slowly starts to accept his new job never fully forgetting about his real dream of being a great music composer. He gets married and has a son, who turns out to be deaf which is ironic side story and caused major conflict because Mr Holland’s entire life was about sound and music. As the years go by students come and go and so does the 60’s, the hippie culture and the Vietnam War. Later in the film, Mr. Holland runs into a great singer who he meets during a school music production played by Jean Louisa Kelly. This young woman has ambitions of her own to run off to be on Broadway and slowly a relationship and almost an affair between the two of them begin, which even threatens Holland’s marriage. The musical numbers performed and especially the singing of Kelly during the school musical are outstanding and some of the best moments of the entire movie. At the end of the film, due to budget cuts the entire music department of this high school is eliminated and a surprise ceremony is organized to honor Mr. Holland. As a member of a high school band myself I found this closing scene (see vide below) as one of the best acted and emotional scenes in any movie I have ever seen.
Other outstanding actors in this film included Olympia Dukakis and William H. Macy. Richard Dreyfuss received an Academy Award nomination for this movie and in my opinion, he should have won. Mr. Holland’s Opus is an outstanding and flawless movie and a 100% must see.
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