Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Fantastic Carell offers master class in Foxcatcher

FOXCATCHER (Bennett Miller, US, 2014)

Bennett Miller's third feature based on actual or true stories follows the odd occurence of billionaire eccentric John Du Pont (Steve Carell) funding the Dave and Mark Schultz in the run up to the 1988 Seoul Olympics in pursuit of a Gold medal in Freestyle wrestling, having both won gold medals at the Los Angeles games of 1984.


Mark, convincingly played by the ever improving Channing Tatum, is younger brother to Dave (Mark Ruffalo) the highly respected elder who is both coach, trainer and an accomplished wrestler in his own life.  Post-Olympics you see how even Gold medallists struggle day to day with life going from training session to training session, accepting elementary school speaking engagements for a measly $20.  There is no money once the glory has worn off, and so the promise of a steady income from Du Pont - in this case $25,000 - along with world class facilities and living arrangements is too big of a carrot for Mark to ignore. Team Foxcatcher is born

However, once in the Du Pont circle, things become very psychological between the two as a need for something in the relationship is apparent and something they lack is found. For Du Pont it is esteem from peers and colleagues, having grown up with no friends that his wealthy mother did not pay for; and for Mark the chance to have what resembles a father-son relationship.

Glory comes at the World Championships in France and then Dave with crises all coming to a head in preparation for Seoul, Dave becomes the hand to guide Mark and thus dismissing Du Pont from the circle of trust.  Mark grows resentful of Du Pont and following the Olympics leaves Foxcatcher for Brigham Young University. Dave stays on board as coach for the team but the withdrawl of Mark, Du Pont's ideal man, from his home leads Du Pont to shoot and kill Dave.

Considering the pedestal the United States of America puts its champions and Gold medallists on to during and after their career to this elevated status of immortality, it is surprising that this story involving athletes and billionaires did not garner a documentary or feature film beforehand.  It encompasses those great American traditions - endeavour, wealth and power.

Yet the film which although a great character study in psychological deteoriation and disintegration feels like more an acting showcase for the three fine leads which is let down by some sloppy direction.

This is not to denigrate Mr. Miller who has done some fine work with Capote and Moneyball but he seems to garner great acting performances from his cast and yet he is devoid of any artistic style of his own.  There is no panache or flair with the camera, although the film does not warrant it and no mise-en-scene stylistics with very much an observant camera from the medium distance throughout.  The tone for this film is very grey and unloving, perhaps to reflect the lack of warmth and love in the lives of Du Pont and Mark, the only time colour appears on the screen is when Dave is on screen - from his white trousers of his suit when he arrives at Foxcatcher to his happy BBQ at his home with family and friends in contrast to the drab home of Mark.

Steve Carell more famously known for his comedic roles is amazing in the role of Du Pont, only a comedian could deliver a line like, 'My friends call me Eagle or Golden Eagle', with a straight face and he gets to the core of the character as someone who although powerful and rich is very much unfulfilled. Much like Robin Williams' best dramatic roles, he can find the sorry in the self.

Tatum is continuing this trend of creating a great body of work irrespective of how you feel about his body image and Ruffalo is the calm centre amongs the storm, stooping around the screen and being the equal to Carell.

Foxcatcher is out now in cinemas from Entertainment One.

It garnered Oscar nominations for Best Film, Director, Adapted Screenplay, Actor (Carell) and Supporting Actor (Ruffalo)

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