With Foxcatcher, Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) directs a tragic tale of American ambition gone awry. It’s a grave and stately undertaking that’s based on the real story of John du Pont, heir to one of the richest families in America, who dreamed of building a wrestling team around the talents of two gold medal wrestlers that came from modest means. The inequality of power pushes the tension between the three over the edge. Although the film isn’t an awe-inspiring achievement as a whole, the performances and atmosphere stimulate the senses and hold a firm grip on the viewer’s attention.
John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) speaks to his newly-founded wrestling squad about patriotic values as if reciting a sport-oriented “Star-Spangled Banner”. But du Pont is no Francis Scott Key — his words are weak, but his money is strong. This is du Pont’s America in Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher: a grand team that he’s accidentally but proudly charging through his money, a game that can be bought. Yes, the film intends to talk about America as much as it does the disquieting personalities of this bleak true story. Though saturated with grandiose metaphors and a message worn carelessly on its sleeves, Foxcatcher confirms Bennett Miller as one of the best character directors working in Hollywood.
The 1967 Cannes Grand Prix winner Blowup was prestigious director Michelangelo Antonioni’s first foray into English, thanks to a deal struck with MGM by producer Carlo Ponti, who contracted the director to do three of them: this one, Zabriskie Point, and The Passenger. While this is clearly the best of that trio (though The Passenger has some merit), in the great Antonioni’s career it feels like a tangential experiment more than a fully realized piece of art.