Saturday, 17 January 2015

Foxcatcher (12) | Film Review

Foxcatcher, dir. Bennett Miller, wr. E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman, st. Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller

Much has been made of Carell's career-turning performance in Miller's film, based on the true story of billionaire John du Pont and his unhealthy interest in the wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz, with many drawing comparison with Robin Williams' turn as Sy Parrish in Mark Romanek's One Hour Photo. Like Williams, albinoed and asexualised, Carell too has undergone a drastic physical transformation. With his peculiarly strained voice and narrowed, piercing eyes staring out over an impressive nasal prosthetic, Carell's du Pont is a truly memorable eccentric. Predictably, this has proved irresistible to this year's Academy who have awarded him with a nomination, albeit curiously in the lead rather than supporting category. Limbering up in the remaining two corners of this tragic triumvirate is Channing Tatum as Mark, a hulking and near mute mass of detached stoicism and Mark Ruffalo as his brother Dave, a markedly more genial family man, the pair united in their love for each other, their sport, and a shared simian stroll. Miller's film actually plays at times more like a gothic horror than biopic. Du Pont's vast mansion is ornate and deserted apart from the ghostly presence of du Pont's wheelchair-bound, horse-trainer Mother Jean (Redgrave) who disapproves of her son's interest in wrestling, and the grounds upon which she keeps her beloved horses are seemingly unending and primordial. When Mark moves on-site to train, he's given a well-kitted outhouse in which to reside but told the main house is "off-limits". At one point, du Pont orders a tank, seemingly on a whim, but becomes petulantly enraged when it arrives without the quoted mounted gun-gimbal. There is, Miller patently knows, nothing so chilling as observing an unbalanced man's unpredictability. There is, obviously, a fine line between artistically floating mere whispers of reason for the purposes of retention of mystery, and leaving a character half-baked and unresolved, and as recently seen in Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, this can prove unsatisfying. Here however, ably supported by a quietly tense and unsettling score from Rob Simonsen and West Dylan Thordson, this emerges a thoughtful if rather grim character study of obsession and loneliness.