Yesterday, I landed in France at approximately 2:30 PM, drove straight to the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cannes, and then attempted to be presentable for the first premiere of the Cannes Film Festival I was lucky enough to attend with Stella Artois. That movie happened to be Foxcatcher, the highly-anticipated film directed by Bennett Miller that stars Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo based on the autobiography of Olympic gold medalist Mark Schultz.
I’m going to say this at least 30 times to various people over the next couple weeks: you need to see Foxcatcher. It is so, so good and deserved every minute of the extensive standing ovation it received at Cannes. Part of what makes it good is how expertly it was cast, which only adds to the importance of the makeup transformation Steve Carell went through to play the role of John du Pont, an eccentric millionaire whose desperation for approval and admiration permeated through the film, making for so many beautifully uncomfortable moments in the theater.
A quick rundown of the plot: Despite winning a gold medal for wrestling at the 1984 Olympics, Mark Schultz (Tatum) has always felt a little overshadowed by his older brother Dave Schultz, who also won a gold medal in wrestling at the same Olympic Games. He winds up getting involved with John du Pont, a paranoid schizophrenic millionaire whose desire to be adored leads him to create a team where wrestlers train and live on his property. John takes a special liking to Mark, who subsequently becomes attached to him and develops a need for approval in an almost son-like way. Things seem to be going well despite John’s eccentricities until Mark begins losing, which displeases John and leads him to pit Mark against Dave within Foxcatcher. I won’t disclose anymore, but it’s an incredible movie with unbelievable performances from all involved, especially that of Carell.
The crazy thing about all of this is that it’s a true story. I honestly forgot that until the end of the film that it was true despite the first moment of it explicitly stating, “This film is based on a true story.”
One of the most impressive and striking aspects of this film is that the makeup team took Steve Carell from looking like this:
While Carell’s performance in Foxcatcher is easily one of the most commendable this year, and that would certainly have still been the case had the filmmakers chosen to keep his face as was, the makeup allows audiences to instantaneously separate any preconceived notions of what a “Steve Carell character” is supposed to be. You don’t have any inkling that this is the man who made The 40-year-old Virgin or Anchorman, or Michael from The Office; right off the bat, the viewer is taken into John du Pont’s foggy, quiet world where money can buy everything except genuine love.
I cannot fail to mention that Tatum’s transformation, too, was amazing. The way he walked, the way he breathed, how he held his jaw in an underbite the entire film–it again takes the viewer away from seeing him as That Guy Who Was In Magic Mike to simply being a lost athlete with a need for approval. Despite their differing appearances, he and Mark Ruffalo are totally believable as brothers; their chemistry onscreen is so brotherly without being over-the-top affectionate or cheesy.
The best word I can use to describe the film: ache. The characters are chronically aching for love, for respect, for applause. It’s not one of those movies I would enjoy watching again and again because it is so agonizingly uncomfortable at times, but that is also what makes it worth seeing at least once.
Oh, and here’s my silly red carpet selfie. #CannesNotFeelShame