I’m sure that you, like me, are immediately wondering if Matt Ross’ Captain Fantastic has anything to do with Elton John’s classic album, Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy. The answer, sadly, is no. No dulcet piano ballads, no catchy riffs, no heartfelt autobiographical choruses. However, if you hate Elton John and love self-righteous polemics on mainstream American society dressed up as family drama, then you’re going to love this one.
One of the most enjoyable elements of any Whit Stillman film is his use of quick, clever, erudite dialogue. So I was initially concerned upon learning that his newest film, Love & Friendship, is an adaptation of Jane Austen’s novella Lady Susan. As wonderful a wordsmith as Austen was, would a slavish duty to adaptation hinder Stillman’s distinctive dialogue? Fortunately, Lady Susan is an epistolary (a novel made up of letters, e.g. Dracula or The Screwtape Letters), which is a perfect opportunity for the filmmaker to stay true both to the source material and to his signature style.
The Middle East has served as a great backdrop for so many Western films because it is a world so alien to that which most Westerners have experienced. Dave Eggers’ novel A Hologram for the King is another such story, although it uses the Arabian desert to symbolize both the cultural and economic divides between East and West. Set in 2010, it explores the uncomfortable new waters in which United States businesses found themselves, reeling in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Tom Tykwer’s adaptation of Eggers’ novel highlights that “otherness” of the culture and economy of Saudi Arabia, as seen through the eyes of a man who’s lost nearly everything.