Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Foxcatcher (2015)

Title: Foxcatcher (2015)

Director: Bennett Miller

Cast: Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller

Steve Carell has gotten an Oscar Nomination for his performance as John Dupont, the mad man millionaire who shot Olympic wrestler Dave Shultz three times, point blank, for god knows what. It’s one of those crimes where we’ll never really know what happened, because those involved won’t say, so it’s probably some really dark secret thing that they don’t want anyone knowing about, which gets your imagination going as to what really happened. Some say it had something to do with exposing Dupont’s potential homosexuality, others attribute the murder to John Dupont’s schizophrenia and others say he was just high on drugs. Similar to The Wolf of Wall Street (2014), this is the story of a millionaire with enough money to be high all the time, on the drug of his choice. Apparently, one of them was cocaine.

So anyhow, the story is all about how John Dupont, one of the richest men in America, decides he is going to fund the American olympic wrestling team by creating a training compound called ‘Team Foxcatcher’. You see, Dupont was an Olympic wrestling aficionado, so he wanted to back the team up, go for the gold by sponsoring these young guns, he also wanted the glory of being called their ‘coach’, though in reality, he had very limited knowledge of the sport. Things go sour when John Dupont’s schizophrenia or his drug abuse begin to show their ugly face. Will Team Foxcatcher win the gold medal? Can the team hold together when its financial backer is a certified wacko millionaire?

So this is one of those movies that runs on the strength of one particular performance and that’s Steve Carell’s portrayal of John Dupont. Everyone else in the film is great, it’s refreshing to see Channing Tatum trying something serious, and the same goes for Mark Ruffallo who turns in a solid performance as Dave Schultz. The thing with Carell’s performance is that we’re used to seeing him play the goofball Manager of Dunder Mifflin, Scranton branch on The Office. But here he is playing a psycho and it’s a drastic change to be sure. It’s not surprising to see a comedian trying something new, comedians always try to branch out into more serious roles in order to stretch their acting abilities, to grow as an actor. We’ve seen a lot of comedians do this, Bill Murray is a good example, but I guess the biggest example would be Tom Hanks, a straight forward comedian who’s suddenly this serious Oscar Caliber actor who rarely makes a comedy anymore. Will we see Carell leave comedy forever after Foxcatcher? I hope not, to me Carell is such a hilarious actor he should keep making funny movies forever, but of course, an actor wants to expand and grow, so I wouldn't be surprised if he wants to explore the serious/dramatic route for a while.

That's Steve Carrell playing John Dupont on the left, and on the right, the real John Dupont, playing at being a coach for the Olympic Wrestling Team. 

Speaking of the Oscar race, Foxcatcher has been nominated for Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. Mark Ruffalo gets the nom for Best Supporting Actor. I think he did a fine performance here playing Dave Schultz, Mark Schultz’s big brother, but he has some stiff competition. The same goes for every category that Foxcatcher is nominated in. If you ask me, Carell and his performance as John Dupont is the only chance Foxcatcher has at winning an Oscar. Even director Bennett Miller, who also directed Capote (2005) and Moneyball (2011) doesn’t have much of a chance against the contenders going up against him. For me, the best director Oscar will go either to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Birdman or Richard Linklater for Boyhood, simply because of the technical prowess displayed in both of these films and the phenomenal concepts behind both of them. Both Birdman and Boyhood are so much more complex in execution than Foxcatcher, that its pretty obvious either of those two will win. And therein lies Foxcatchers limited chances, its a pretty simple picture when compared to other Oscar contenders. Don’t get me wrong, Foxcatcher is a completely watchable film with many merits, it just didn’t say much to me, it felt like a lightweight thematically speaking, like empty calories. I mean, the sibling rivalry angle isn’t exploited much and neither is Dupont’s possible homosexuality. Things are sort of touched upon, but never really explored, ultimately, Foxcatcher left me wanting more, I wanted it to dig deeper, but I detected a bit of restraint on the filmmakers part.

Why wasn’t Dupont’s schizophrenia explored more in depth? I mean here’s a guy who reportedly spoke to rocks, thought spirits and spies where after him and thought that treadmills could send him back in time! It would have been interesting to see this angle explored a bit more. The film does go into Dupont wanting to garner others respect, mainly his mothers. Here's a man who's trying to do something great, but is unable to because he himself isn't a "great man", so what does he do? He hangs around the greats, to see if some of that greatness and talent rubs off on him, but that's not how it works. Greatness is achieved through talent and dedication. Dupont wanted to pretend. In regards to Dupont’s schizophrenia, the film reminded me a bit of Ron Howard’s A Beautiful Mind (2001) a film in which Russell Crowe plays a brilliant mathematician who also talks to imaginary people, yet is brilliant in his own field. The only difference is that A Beautiful Mind ends on a more positive vibe, while Foxcatcher goes down a darker path. So in conclusion my friends, Foxcatcher was a good movie, with a strange vibe which I enjoyed. You know something is off, but you’re not sure what it is.  And we get Steve Carell’s awesome performance, which is strong enough to get him an Oscar this year;  but the competition is tough, we’ll see.

Rating: 4 out of 5

Dave and Mark Schultz during their glory days

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