Words by Troy Balmayer
Now then, aside from the tonally grey look and non stop chilling aspects, I found this film rather disappointing. It’s not a victim of over hype, though I was really looking forward to its release, it just chugs away pretty slowly to an unsatisfying end. The acting is quality, the mood set up is bang on but something didn’t strike with me and I didn’t overly like it.This, another bio-pic in the run up to tonight’s Golden Globes and the soon to be announced Oscars, sees Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), an Olympic wrestler moving in to Foxcatcher Farm under the growing coach and father mentoring of wealthy philanthropist John du Pont (Steve Carell). There they both work hard to try and gain glory for their country but it’s not enough for du Pont who wants Marks more acclaimed brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) leaving tensions to grow on du Pont’s estate.
Perhaps in my lack of seeing previous Bennett Miller films, I don’t get the style of the slow paced movie. Though of course I’ve heard masterful things about ‘Capote’ and ‘Moneyball’ and both centre on real life figures and draw out fantastic performances from his stars. It could also be that I’m growing tired of biographical films in the lead up to awards time, though I don’t think that’s correct because if they’re done well then I really invest in them. There’s just a slight niggle throughout watching this movie that it’s boring and I didn’t want to use that word but alas I just did.
The crime of the story is shocking and the petulant childlike behaviour of this money throwing Golden Eagle (du Pont) is chilling to the bone, but knowing where this film is heading to, at least in some direction if you’ve seen the trailer or know of the event leads it to ticking away very slowly for a long time. It sounds bad, but you’re just waiting for it to happen already. The film is over two hours and in my opinion it felt that way and some.
The music tinkles away with dread and the piano score racks up that unpleasant vibe, making the screen you’re sat in feel colder and nightmarish, but the music and the subject matter are just obvious ways to illicit feelings of the directors wish. It’s nothing groundbreaking or unique in bio-pic terms, just done quite generically knowing that simple chills and thrills can do enough for award voters.
I did really like the commitment of the actors, Ruffalo and Tatum training and bulking up to bring presence to the Schultz brothers and then Carell who drops his comedy stereotype like he never had it. The body control he has to make John feel still and predator like is fantastic and his voice is twisted to stuttering levels making you hardly recognise Brick Tamland under that prosthetic nose. Steve Carell deserves his nods, it’s an attention worthy role and he brings about the best qualities of the film as you begin getting lost in this uncomfortable yet somehow inviting gentleman. I don’t think he’ll win but the recognition enough is brilliant and hopefully he’ll tread down the serious route more often. Channing Tatum is of course convincing as wrestler Mark but that’s no stretch for him and most of the time it’s a case of pulling dumb faces to make Mark seem stupid or hulky and nothing else. Mark Ruffalo who I like a lot doesn’t have a defining moment that made me understand his supporting actor nod, Ruffalo is always good as he is in this film but nothing leapt out making me go, “oh, that’s the Golden Globe nod right there.” Sienna Miller is sidelined massively making emotional connection all but lost, they could have utilised more family time bringing more heart to the sport heavy film.
In some similar aspects to ‘Unbroken’ this film feels as if it’s trying a little too much to gain gravitas in the world of nominated movies, it’s got a career defining shine for Steve Carell and the constant chill factor is undeniably well constructed but apart from that, it didn’t grab me in the way it’s loved by others.
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