In Cinemas

Gameplaying Grotesques – Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher (2014) – cinema review

January 23, 2015 by Simon Kinnear in In Cinemas with 0 Comments

Miller’s meditation on the parasitic effects of wealth and patronage is so solemn it veers into unintentional kitsch.  Material this macabre is better treated as lurid trash.

(Bennett Miller, 2014)

In ‘true crime’ movies, the weirder and more gossipy the events, the greater the likelihood of getting green-lit. In Foxcatcher, we have possibly the perfect storm, involving Olympic wrestling, a creepy billionaire and a rather natty yellow fox logo. All it really lacks is the lurid tone to go with it.

As directed by Bennett Miller, this a solemn tragedy that unites the themes of his previous films – crime in Capote, sports in Moneyball – in order to make grand sweeping statements about an America founded on the caprices of the idle rich. That is, of course, a brilliant subject for a film, as evinced in everything from Citizen Kane to There Will Be Blood. However, Miller is trying to achieve it within the faintly camp confines of a Gothic horror involving men in leotards, and he never quite stabilises that cognitive dissonance, especially when Steve Carell can’t resist giving his lines the inflections of a natural comedian.

Why not go the whole hog and make something savagely satirical in the vein of Whatever Happened To Baby Jane? or the work of John Waters? The material’s toxicity should bleed out of the screen.  Instead, Miller tries to distance himself from Du Pont by breeding a thoroughbred of a movie, but he’d have more chance of beating him by getting down ‘n’ right in the movie equivalent of the wrestling ring.

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