I’ve been eagerly awaiting the release of Foxcatcher all year. Director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) is doing what few can do better- a film inspired by a true story. But it was Steve Carell, playing millionaire schizophrenic John du Pont, that I was most excited to see. This isn’t the first time he’s tried to surprise us. I was completely caught off guard by the sincerity of his performance in Little Miss Sunshine and even more so in Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The more risks someone takes, the more I root for them and I knew that pulling off something so dark would be his biggest yet.
On his against-type casting choice, Miller apparently said “I think all comedians are dark”. After the recent passing of Robin Williams, the cliche of the sad clown has been discussed online at length but it’s always been especially on the surface with Carell who, even in some of his most straight-up comedies (The Office and 40 Year-Old Virgin in particular), has never been afraid to let his dark side show. Michael Scott, the boss from hell on The Office, can be obnoxious and selfish but Carell rarely forgets to play the sadness and loneliness that’s behind his less likable traits.
As John du Pont, Steve Carell doesn’t disappoint. I didn’t know much about this story at the start of the film and only knew that all this was supposed to end in tragedy so du Pont’s creepy persona and erratic behaviour unnerved me every time he was on screen. Carell plays him as unpredictable (quite a feat given that his voice rarely raises above a mumble) and nearly impossible to read. It’s a performance that I found impossible to forget as I tried and failed to sleep later that night and I hope Oscar takes as much notice as the Golden Globes have.
As for the film itself, it’s never less than compelling and held my attention long after it was done as I tried to piece it together for the next few hours. Miller uses dialogue only when necessary and seems more interested in telling his story through haunting images and the looks on Channing Tatum and Steve Carell’s faces, resulting in a finished product that is exceptionally well shot and edited and easy to admire. But because both leads (Tatum and Carell) say so little and because Miller keeps his audience at such a distance, there’s not much to get emotionally involved in.