If Moneyball was about the addiction to succeed, Foxcatcher is the addiction to impress. Brace yourselves, Oscar season has begun. I honestly was shocked I got the chance to see it (well not really considering how many empty seats there still was at the premiere since some company decided to buy the floor but my gripes on this year's TIFF shouldn't reflect my view of the movie so I'll put comments and tips for reference to survive TIFF at the bottom).
I normally can look at a film and tell whether or not it will win the Oscar or not. I did it with Argo, 12 Years a Slave, and I mean 2nd place isn't too bad for The Descendants, The Social Network and Avatar. But Foxcatcher seemed like a winner, or bred a winner from the moment I knew the cast and saw the trailer. Steve Carell and Channing Tatum are highly unconventional. Check. It's a biopic. Check. It's a drama. Check.
What we have here is a good film, that I feel will get the Oscar nods, but ultimately I don't think it will have the momentum to win them. I honestly was really excited to see Steve Carell play John Du Pont, the heir to the Du Pont wealth and is the crux of the story (which took me a while to question since I still don't know who I would bill as the lead, I believe it should be Carell, but why is Tatum front and centre? Are they afraid they'll lose audiences if they plaster Carell? Honestly, Carell would be the draw, especially how much they played him in the first trailer compared to his screen time in the film. Very odd.). That said, Carell looks like a cross between Emperor Palpatine and Gru, and really the drama isn't that far of a stretch which disappointed me. It felt more like Brick Tamland was in a drama and people were taking him as an actual idiot. Tatum is ok as Mark Shultz, you see him go through a psychosis, but it isn't too drastic of a stretch for the guy (sidenote: he plays a wrestler so many times larger than everyone and still gets beat? How does wrestling work?). Honestly I was most impressed surprisingly (yes probably at Jeremy American Hustle level) by Mark Ruffalo's Dave Shultz. He really is the glue between Du Pont and the Shultz and I know he won't get nominated but he should get some recognition from me (after disastrously playing the Hulk).
That said the film has mostly pacing issues. 30 minutes could have been cut, but it's an Oscar film so I mean... it won't. And I didn't even know Du Pont had schizophrenia or really considered Dave to be a friend, it's just implied on screen, but it's amazing that given no context that you can really focus on the three characters. There is just a lot of awkward silence, which really lightens the tone (Carell does a lot of unintentional comedy here, but I don't know if it was intentional or not).
There are also two main themes here. The addiction to impress and the understanding of a mentor figure. The trailer to me really muddles the message (again without fully knowing Du Pont's story) where it makes you believe it's about a good coach who pushes a promising pupil to a psychosis (a la Whiplash or Black Swan). When instead (mild spoiler) it's about clueless men wanting to impress and leave a legacy behind and blindly leading each other towards their goals. It's hard for me really to see why I disliked the movie, I liked the quiet moments, but I wish there was also a bit more pulse at times like the trailer made it out to be.