Intense Men – Foxcatcher (2014)

A polarizing movie that I fall on the favorable side of.  So this is about wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) training for the Olympics with the eccentric John E. du Pont (Steve Carell).  This film focuses on the volatile relationship they share.  Now I know this is a film that people have been reacting strongly to.  This is why you see this nominated for Oscars in two acting categories, writing, directing and make-up, and yet it still didn’t receive enough first-place votes for a Best Picture nomination.  This is a movie that affects you on a gut level, and I can completely understand having an extreme reaction one way or the other.

tatumWhen you focus you movie on driven men who are not overly likable, you’re going to have radical audience reactions.

This is from Bennett Miller, director of Moneyball, and I have to say, he flat out knows how to work with actors.  Much like Steven Soderbergh, he has the ability to pull out quality performances from people you wouldn’t expect to have the capability.  You probably already have high expectations from Mark Ruffalo (who looks nothing like himself), because he has been giving great performances for some time now, but what you may not be sure of is the work turned in by Carell and Tatum.  Let’s talk firstly about the actor who drew the short straw, Channing Tatum, because nobody is talking about him, short of a few side ensemble awards.  He is really what anchors this movie, and he has come a long way since he was the dancing kid in Step Up.  Somewhere around 2011 when he did The Eagle, you could tell that he started taking acting classes, because there was such a noticeable improvement from what he had been doing previously.  It has all led up to this, where he plays an unhinged, nerve-wracking man, and if you’ve seen a preview for this, you will get nervous whenever you see a mirror.  If you only listened to people who pay attention to awards, you would probably overlook what he does here, which is unfair, but understandable, given the transformation performance that Carell gives.

carellJust look at that Barbra Streisand NOSE.

This is who you walk about talking about.  He is playing such a departure from what he usually plays (the funny man with a punchline), and he is performing this role completely straight.  It’s impressive, much like his make-up effects, and his performance that he gives is captivating and stunning.  You don’t see Steve Carell when you’re watching him act… for the most part.  There are a couple of scenes where you pick up tiny hints of Michael Scott, like when he’s poking his head in a window, but I suppose when you do seven seasons of a hit television show, you’re cursed to always remind people of your most famous role.

scottWould I rather be feared or loved?  Easy.  Both.  I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.

These are all scary performances where these actors transform themselves, and unless you’re already familiar with this man’s life story, you’re going to be surprised with how this story plays out.  The whole time, I never knew where it was going, but I could tell it wasn’t going to any place good.  You honestly want to see Schultz win fights so he can just calm down, because you know that there will be stressful repercussions if he loses.  While I would not go so far to call this enjoyable, and there are lulls to be found here to be sure, this is filled with great, memorable scenes featuring these men with personality disorders.

Foxcatcher (2014) ****

– Critic for Hire


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