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dir Bennett Miller
scr E Max Frye, Dan Futterman
prd Anthony Bregman, Megan Ellison, Jon Kilik, Bennett Miller
with Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller, Anthony Michael Hall, Brett Rice, Guy Boyd, Francis J Murphy III, Corey Jantzen, Daniel Hilt, Jesse Jantzen
release US 14.Nov.14, UK 9.Jan.15
14/US Sony 2h10
Master and student: Carell and Tatum
CANNES FILM FEST
TORONTO FILM FEST
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
After Capote and Moneyball, director Miller turns his hand to another true story, although this one is so unnerving that the film is rather difficult to like. But it's strikingly well made, building an almost unbearable sense of creepy tension through characters who are portrayed bravely by actors working beyond their comfort zones.
After winning wrestling gold at the Los Angeles 1984 Olympics, brothers Mark and David Schultz (Tatum and Ruffalo) start training for Seoul. Then Mark gets an offer from millionaire John du Pont (Carell) to start a wrestling team alongside the Foxcatcher thoroughbred stables. David initially opts to stay home with his wife (Miller) and kids, but is eventually lured by the financial stability of Team Foxcatcher and a position as its coach. But John's obsession starts to feel like more than a mere eccentricity, especially after his mother, matriarch Jean (Redgrave) dies.
Director Miller and writers Frye and Futterman pack this film with squirm-inducing scenes that are remarkable for what they imply. Clearly something is wrong here, but the film never tries to define John's wrestling fixation aside from his desire to prove to his mother that his stable of top wrestlers is just as valuable as her prized horses. But there's obviously more to it than that, and the film leaves the audience to work it out through Carell's rather frightening performance.
Indeed, the actor is playing so far against type that he's almost unrecognisable (especially with that prosthetic hook nose). John is moody and insistent, a spoiled rich kid who's has never taken no for an answer (one mad sequence involves John having a go as a wrestler himself). And his rah-rah sermons to his boys are far scarier than they are inspirational. Opposite him, Tatum and Ruffalo deliver lean, taut performances that bring out the brothers' bond, realistic emotions and a pungent drive to succeed.
But once John introduces Mark to drugs ("It's only cocaine!") the film gets so dark and nasty that it's not easy to watch. Expertly written, directed and acted, it becomes more like a horror movie full of sinister suggestions. But as it heads to the tragedy we know is coming, Miller refuses to hint whether this is a story about mental illness, sexual obsession, mommy issues or psychopathic urges. Perhaps his point is that real life is too complex to put into such an easily understood box.
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© 2014 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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