Power to the people.
Stick it to the man.
I was really looking forward to this movie. It’s the directorial debut of Matt Ross who is a super-underrated actor that I wish more people knew about; his turn as Alby, the tormented, closeted son of Harry Dean Stanton’s polygamist cult-leader Roman is reason enough to watch Big Love all by itself, if you ask me. And this movie features Viggo Mortenson in the lead for the first time in what feels like ages as a father raising his children off the grid in the wilderness. But, my God, did this movie reek. This movie blows as hard as any movie I’ve seen this year. I cannot tell you how dreadful this movie is.
The entire premise of the film is that Viggo Mortenson’s character, Ben, is this wise, sage-like, awesome dad who has life all figured out and has to constantly battle the idiotic “real world” people he encounters. So, his wife dies so he and the children head out for the funeral and encounter a lot of estranged family members and Ben sets about just roundly humiliating them and treating them like **** because they’re not as wise and nature-God as he is or whatever. The movie wastes Kathryn Hahn and Steve Zahn as Ben’s sister & brother-in-law in a lengthy sequence where Hahn & Zahn play the most stereotypical irritating people on the planet; Hahn forever screaming shrilly at her two teenage sons who mutter profanities sullenly while playing on their phones and Zahn stammers ineffectually in the background, the perfect picture of the modern, suburban emasculated husband. In contrast, Ben coolly has his youngest daughter discuss the moral and legal implications of the Citizens United decision by the Supreme Court. I AM NOT JOKING. In another scene, Ben repeatedly uses the f-word at the dinner table despite his sister begging him not to do so in front of her children; he does this in order to so infuriate her that she will leave the table and he can then give wine to his young children. The look on his face as he smarmily pours the wine is the most punchable expression I’ve seen in the movies in a few years. This man is the smuggest, mostcondescending asshat I’ve encountered in I cannot tell you when.
Now, none of this would be that bad if this movie was a character study; but it isn’t – it’s a celebration. I mean, look at the title. This movie is not a character study of Ben as a compelling, if often repugnant, person. It’s a hymn to his virtue as the one guy who’s got life figured out. It isn’t just Ben that has the infuriating smug self-satisfaction that only the truly sociopathic ever truly experience; the movie has that attitude as well. Late in the film, Ben starts to question himself and I thought that the movie was going to actually go in a complicated direction and Ben decides that his methods of parenting (as well as just moving through the world in general) are irresponsible and even dangerous. Yes, dangerous; one of his sons has a broken arm and one of his other daughters is nearly paralyzed because of his stupidity in the course of the film. And so he tells his kids this and leaves to go and wander the world alone. And I was like, okay, I guess the film is going to pull out a WHAT THE **** HIS KIDS STOWED AWAY WITH HIM IN THE BUS AND TURNS OUT HE WAS RIGHT ALL ALONG? So, the movie ends with the dude and his kids digging up his wife’s body, because she wanted to be cremated, not buried and stealing it. They then take it home and burn it. However, let me just say that this trip home . . . it’s from NEW MEXICO to WASHINGTON STATE. WITH THEIR MOTHER’S BODY LITERALLY LAYING ON THE FLOOR IN THE MIDDLE OF A BUS. THE YOUNGEST CHILDREN ARE PLAYING WITH THE HAIR OF THEIR MOTHER’S RAPIDLY RIPENING CORPSE OVER THE COURSE OF THIS LENGTHY TRIP. I cannot tell you how utterly, infuriatingly stupid this movie is.
There are other problems that are minor in comparison to the overall effect of the movie, but they’re worth mentioning. George McKay plays Bodeven, Ben’s eldest . . . did Imention that all the kids have names that their parents just made up? Yeah, Bodeven. I did kind of like Rellian though. But still, we’ve probably all known those people who are like “Yeah, we decided to name our baby Karen, but we decided to spell it Khahriin so it’ll be unique.” You know how ******* annoying those people are? These people are next level. And now their kids have to go through life with names like Bodeven and Kielyr. Anyway, back to McKay . . . boy, is he terrible. Now, I really loved Pride and he was the lead in that, but I didn’t recognize him here even, so he’s a chameleon, I guess, and maybe it’s the fault of the role, but he is incredibly annoying himself. And the movie is never sure just how out of touch with the “real world” Ben’s kids are supposed to be. Ben makes them read things like Brothers Karamazov and such, but then when they get into the real world, for instance, Bodevan thinks he should get married to a girl after they spend like an hour talking. I get it; this kid has never been in the real world before – but he’s supposedly read all the great literature. And he doesn’t know basic social etiquette. I mean, he’s lived in the woods his whole life; he’s not ******* brain damaged. Well, anyway, I’ve gone on at more than enough length about this dreadful, horrible, utterly stupid movie. What a disaster. 0 stars.
tl;dr – utterly wrong-headed movie is self-righteous, morally problematic & seemingly unaware of how repugnant & infuriatingly annoying its main character is; one of the worst ever. 0 stars.