Bennett Miller‘s “Foxcatcher” continues to triumph at film festivals, with a sensational showing at Toronto coming on the heels of its acclaimed world premiere at Cannes and then a well-received sneak peek at Telluride. Miller, who claimed the Best Director prize at Cannes, is a strong contender in our Oscar odds. He is the pick of four of our 16 Experts and ranks third behind Richard Linklater (“Boyhood“) and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (“Birdman“) in our overall odds.
Steve Carell is a revelation as the schizophrenic millionaire John du Pont who mentors Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and murders his older brother Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo). Carell’s comic persona is completely submerged into this complex character. Beyond his physical transformation, including a prominent proboscis, the actor’s stillness conveys the disturbed nature of the man. He sits in second on our Best Actor chart behind Michael Keaton (“Birdman”).
Tatum also delivers a powerhouse performance as a man struggling to establish his own identity, separate from that of his superstar brother. We see the story through his eyes and follow him from his isolation to a unhealthy relationship with DuPont and back. He proves himself up to the task and in the wrestling scenes is entirely credible as an Olympic gold medallist.
And Ruffalo makes the most of his featured role, conveying his character’s caring nature with just a glance. That he puts his brother before himself ends up costing him his life. With his shaved forehead and bushy beard, the actor bears a striking resemblance to Schultz.
Miller’s first two feature films — “Capote” (2005) and “Moneyball” (2011) — both contended for Best Picture with the former winning the Best Actor prize for Phillip Seymour Hoffman. “Capote” also screened at Telluride, before going on to Toronto where it wowed both industry and public audiences. Dan Futterman, who reaped an Oscar nomination for his adapted screenplay for “Capote,” crafted the “Foxcatcher” script with E. Max Frye (“Band of Brothers”).
Miller has slightly tweaked “Foxcatcher” since it screened at Cannes. Perhaps he did this to break the curse that befell the other five fellows who picked up the helming prize at Cannes and went on to contend at the Oscars; they all lost. Those five also-rans were: Robert Altman for “The Player” (1992), Joel Coen for “Fargo” (1996), David Lynch for “Mulholland Drive” (2001), Alejandro González Iñárritu for “Babel” (2006) and Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” (2007). Both “Fargo” and “Babel” also contended for Best Picture and scored several wins.
Sony Pictures Classic is taking this hot property to two more film festivals — New York and London — before its Nov. 14 release.