Foxcatcher

December 1, 2014 at 3:35 pm | Posted in 2014 | Leave a comment
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◊ ◊ ½

When is acting so good that it’s good enough to ignore the rest?  That’s a tough question for me to answer but the threshold was not quite reached here. At 134 minutes long, a movie needs to be fairly engaging to keep an audience’s attention and this one simply wasn’t. Based on the true story of wealth heir, John E DuPont, and his Olympic wrestling team, this is certainly an odd story at times but never really a very gripping one. Suffused with a strange menace and a vague homoeroticism, the film covers roughly a decade of DuPont’s relationship with the wrestlers and two gold-medal winning brothers, in particular. The audience feels slightly ill at-ease the whole time, knowing something bad is bound to happen. Don’t worry, your instincts will pay off but the road there is long and not terribly scenic. That said, the acting is absolutely Oscar-worthy. Steve Carell is a powerhouse as Dupont. Buried behind a latex nose, his eyes seem to recede into his head, where they convey a wary unease. Carell’s DuPont feels like a spring ready to pop at any moment and he carries the film’s tension entirely on his back. It’s a brilliant but not entirely surprising performance for me. I saw hints of Carell’s capacity to play dark characters in last year’s “The Way Way Back.” However, the real revelation was Channing Tatum as medalist, Mark Schultz. Tatum (who is mostly known for his “Jump Street” films), has never been on my radar. Yet, he embodied Schultz with the sort of skill I see in some of Hollywood’s greats. The entire way he carried his body (slumped shoulders, gorilla-like posture, lopping gait, protruding jaw) transformed him physically. He was also able to capture a dull-eyed naivety and (later) resentment that was terrific to watch. Mark Ruffalo, as his brother, was also fantastic but that’s hardly a surprise. The real joy of this film (and it’s no small joy) was in watching Carell and Tatum play against type so brilliantly. It’s sort of enough to recommend it. Or, I should say, if you can love a film just for the joy of great acting alone, then run to the theater, you might not see better this year. However, if you want more, anything more really, then I’m afraid you’re headed for disappointment. With a cast of lesser actors, this would have been a TV movie. In these fine hands, it has been elevated to something almost good.

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