“Foxcatcher,” which opens on Nov. 14, recently screened at the Vancouver International Film Festival as part of the ongoing push to position the film as a serious Oscar contender. Bennett Miller‘s film tells the true story of eccentric billionaire John du Pont’s (Steve Carell) deadly obsession with two Olympic wrestlers — Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo).
The film currently ranks fifth among Best Picture contenders, with one of our 21 Experts, three of our Top 24 Users (at predicting last year’s Oscar nominations) and about 20% of all of our Users predicting it to prevail.
Carell is a major contender in the Best Actor race with odds of 4/1 putting him in second behind Michael Keaton (“Birdman.”). While second-billed Tatum is more prominent for the majority of the film, when his character leaves the Team Foxcatcher training estate the story does stay with him. Rather, the narrative shifts focus to his brother who stays behind and had appeared only sporadically in the film’s first half.
The constant is Carell’s character who is a coach to both of these men. This is not to say that du Pont’s only role in the film is to support the Schultzes. While he is the more enigmatic character, the film is equally interested in what informs du Pont’s actions as those of the brothers. Vanessa Redgrave plays his disapproving mother Jean and appears solely to add layers to him.
Carell is consistently terrifying. He menaces and has crafted a very specific character in terms of movement and speech. However, there are no physical or emotional fireworks and he does hot have that one explosive scene that inevitably gets played during the Oscar telecast. While the actor is playing against type, there are moments of humor in the film. And while these demonstrate his range, they may remind voters of his past films such as “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” that they did not deem Oscar-worthy.
Tatum is also subdued, but without a prosthetic nose to add gravitas he ranks only 18th in the Best Actor race with odds of 100/1. His performance can be summed up with one word: brooding. The film will need overwhelming support to become the first since “Amadeus” (1984) to reap dual Best Actor bids.
Ruffalo is likely to earn his second Supporting Actor nomination; he contended for “The Kids Are All Right” in 2010, losing to Christian Bale (“The Fighter”). Dave is the most grounded of the three “Foxcatcher” men; his kindness and lack of inner turmoil contrasts him with the scene-stealers that usually win his category. Indeed, two such men — J.K. Simmons (“Whiplash“) and Edward Norton (“Birdman”) — currently rank ahead of him in this race.
Redgrave, a six-time Oscar nominee, won Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 1977 for “Julia.” She is the only actress on the “Foxcatcher” poster with the coveted “and” billing. While she ranks sixth in our odds, she is a longshot as she appears only three times and has just one scene with dialogue.
Below, watch below the introduction to the film at VIFF by former Olympic wrestlers Greg Edgelow and Chris Rinke with Mark Schultz (Tatum’s character) on speakerphone adding, “It’s quite a fascinating piece of artwork that the director and actors have created; I hope everybody has a good time.”
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