Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Foxcatcher is based on a true story too. I watched it two months ago at Worcester’s Vue cinema. In one scene we’re shown a field where 3,000 soldiers were killed during the American Civil War. I was sitting one hundred metres from a site, the old City Gate, where 3,000 Royalists were slaughtered during our Civil War. I didn’t know anything about the Team Foxcatcher story. I had been waiting to see Steve Carell in a drama. I have enjoyed his work since The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” and far preferred his portrayal of the line manager in The Office. He exploits the humanity in his characters – The 40-Year Old Virgin, Little Miss Sunshine, Date Night – because it gave these comedies more scope. I cared what happened to them. So, as far I was concerned, Carell was already well-versed in dramatic roles. It became apparent, very early on, that Foxcatcher was going to be a sad film.

The Academy Award for Best Actor is a sprint finish in a cycle race. The team does everything that needs to be done for the one man launched towards the finishing line. It’s difficult to identify what’s wrong with Foxcatcher. Everything is top of the range. The period detail, late 1980s, is immaculate (but not too intrusive). The cinematography is evocative. The acting is never less than spot on. Steve Carell creates a believable John du Pont, the multi-millionaire who took it upon himself to provide the USA with a wrestling team that can win Olympic gold. You will believe that Mark Ruffalo is a better wrestler than his brother, played by Channing Tatum, who’d surely tear him apart. Vanessa Redgrave raises the standard in every scene, as John’s mother, without leaving her chair. Sienna Miller has a role that could have done by a hundred others, except that hiring a newcomer may have distracted the audience. The women never meet. It’s all about some men; uncommunicative, aggressive, self-obsessed men.

Ruffalo, giving a family man version of his character in The Kids Are All Right, plays David Schulz as a Saint. Ruffalo was in The Zodiac Killer too. Every time a lifer dies his agent gets an offer. There was one word delivered, off screen, in the voice Carell uses for ‘Gru’, his character in Despicable Me. After their initial success Du Pont continues to give the wrestlers everything they need but they just sit around. For a moment the movie appears to be saying something. It goes back to the story.

Why isn’t Foxcatcher better? It isn’t possible to do it any better. I think it is the story. It makes an eye-catching magazine article but there wasn’t much to it. Two taciturn men, who prefer bizarre behaviour to words, and the poor guy stuck in the middle trying to work them out. Will he crack the code in time? There were a lot of films made in the late 1960s and early 1970s with sudden, jarring endings. Even in real life it’s a cheap way of resolving the plot.

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