Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Foxcatcher Lacks Focus

What a bizarre story.
Foxcatcher is one of those surprise award contenders that seem to show up at just the right time with little serious press before. It's the true story of two world class wrestling brothers who were taken under the wing of the far too wealthy John du Pont back in the 1980s. It's director, Bennett Miller (who'll probably get an Oscar nod), is world class having brought us previous Oscar contenders; Capote and Moneyball. And it heralds three of the better acting performances of the year between Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo.
But the positives don't press far beyond that. The pace of the film is absolutely fine with me, but everything seems to falter on the script. It's not that there aren't wonderful moments scattered throughout, rather the film is just poorly broken up between the three main characters and the resolutions to their stories lack much in the way of... well... resolution. There are moments where the point seems to come forward only to be completely ignored and denied in later sequences. Until, by the end, you're left feeling like you witnessed less than a third of what you expected and cared just as little. This one overwhelming weakness seems to seep into every facet of the film and endanger award prospects across the board.
So let's go back to the actors briefly. While I was impressed with both Carell and Tatum, Mark Ruffalo turns out to be the most compelling actor in this thing. If he gets a supporting actor nod I would not be disappointed... but that's the most confusing thing. While all three of these actors seem to be lauded as leads, none of them get enough screen time to warrant a leading actor nomination. I could see all three potentially given a supporting nom, but the films overall lack of focus really hurts some of their award chances. Not that this is all about awards. Indeed, there is pure merit in allowing the story to flesh out naturally. But then I get back to my earlier point, that the film doesn't have good enough resolutions across the board. Usually I'd welcome just one good resolution that was so compelling the others could be left up in the air. But the one you'd expect to be that good, fails to carry enough weight and essentially drags the rest of the film down with it.
And rather unfortunately, Vanessa Redgrave didn't get nearly enough screen time and Sienna Miller had practically nothing to do.

E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman wrote some incredible scenes, but ultimately let their cast and crew down. Yet there is a very very bright spot that should not and will not be affected. Makeup! This film is going to be nominated for makeup. And it deserves to be just for those nose prosthetics. They believably transformed the cast to the point that I occasionally forgot that I was watching Steve Carell or Channing Tatum... guys I've seen a million times before. I'm not sure if that goes to Bill Corso or if Mark Nieman would get recognition... probably the whole team. But these guys really brought it. Great job!
Anyway, Foxcatcher lacks the necessary focus to get it anywhere near my top ten for 2014. But it's still rather interesting. A bizarre piece about a lesser known and incredibly confusing historical event. And I'm still very glad I saw it. There was a lot of practical expertise on display here. Just... when things need to all come together, they seem to fall further apart. Sometimes the medium of film can be so fickle.

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