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Cannes: 'Foxcatcher' Tells Riveting Murder Tale, as Award Season Beckons (POSTER)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood May 24, 2014 at 3:14PM

Expectations were running high at festival midpoint at Cannes for Bennett Miller's "Foxcatcher," which did not disappoint the international critics Monday morning, who gave the film a healthy round of applause. With "Capote" and "Moneyball" behind him, Cannes anointed the director with a first-time competition auteur slot. Will Jane Campion's jury throw any awards at this intense murder drama financed by Annapurna?
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'Foxcatcher' poster
'Foxcatcher' poster

The movie is slow, deliberate and not cinematically flashy, although much skill is involved. A movie about incommunicative people imploding on their swallowed feelings commands a high degree of difficulty. These people are not inherently charming or interesting or attractive, although the brothers are decent, likable people. Miller has drawn superb performances from his actors, who learned how to wrestle impressively and worked closely with the surviving Schultz. I suspect that it will be Carrell who lands an Oscar nod; Sony Pictures Classics will push him and Tatum as leads with Ruffalo and Redgrave in supporting. They might have a better shot with Tatum in lead and Carell in supporting. 

The actors' seven-month preparation involved an investigative journalism approach to the story, Ruffalo said at the press conference. "Bennett invited us to bring in stories and reflections about these people." Miller says 50 % of the movie comes from what they added to it. "Because we do care about these characters, I can relate it to the world we live in," he says. "It's not a political film, nor does it take a moral position. It's meant to be an investigation, to understand some of these dynamics...The style of the film is not so much telling the story as observing the story, sensitizing you to what is happening beneath the story. A lot of American male non-communication is happening, there's an undercurrent beneath the undercurrent, every scene is the tip of the iceberg...it's an adventure film, it's Mark's adventure." 

"There is a moral thrust," Ruffalo continued. "There's a Greek tragedy. What happens when everything has a price tag? What happens when everything is for sale? What happens to talent when it's for sale, or can be acquired? What happens to people when they are in a system that values everything at a price? Talented people can't do what they do best unless they can figure out a way to monetize it; that costs the talent a great deal."

Miller agrees: "I see it as tragic, it's not random, it's the trajectory of these characters, the film tries to see that. 'Capote' was the same thing: 'the fault lies not in our stars but in ourselves.'"

This challenging, intense drama is not a natural crowdpleaser. Opening November 14, "Foxcatcher" will demand all the skill that Sony Pictures Classics can command and will need award-season support from critics and other voting groups to turn it into a must-see. 

This article is related to: Foxcatcher, Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Bennett Miller, Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, Reviews, Reviews, Festivals


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.