After two months of respite from the relentless speculation and reams of flattery that is Oscar season, it’s way past time to start the conversation up again.
First up: Steve Carell, the comedy favorite who was perennially snubbed by the Emmys during his great run as Michael Scott on “The Office.” After mid-aught success with “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and a darker turn in “Little Miss Sunshine,” Carell is, by all indications, poised to earn his best reviews yet as the star of Bennett Miller‘s drama “Foxcatcher.”
The film, which was originally supposed to come out last fall, features Carell as John du Pont, a mentally unstable heir to the vast du Pont family chemical fortune and obsessive wrestling booster; he spent nine years working with Olympic gold medalist Mark Schultz, then murdering his brother, fellow gold grappler Dave Schultz. Prosthetics and a deep dive into the twisted psychology of the character transformed Carell from sweet funny man to disturbing on-screen presence, the sort of all-in performance that gets critics behind an actor with nine months to go before the Oscars are handed out.
TheWrap’s Steve Pond says “[Carell’s] performance might be the showiest and most surprising part of a quiet but multi-layered and richly detailed drama,” a film that Pond says is a smart and ambiguous take on the American Dream and the privilege of wealth. Channing Tatum co-stars as Mark Schultz, earning praise from Pond for “unearthing that vulnerability we’ve always known he had in him but haven’t seen much of in the roles he’s played.”
Mark Ruffalo, who plays the ill-fated wrestler Dave Schultz, also earned strong reviews, as he always does because he is a gem of an actor and human.
Indiewire’s Eric Kohn gave the film a B+, with strong praise for Tatum and Carell, the latter of whom he praises for “succeed[ing] at distancing himself from any semblance of the comedic roles that established his career.”
THR’s Todd McCarthy was also wowed by Carell: “As if by some secret alchemy, the actor makes you believe that his character is an entirely uncharismatic man while delivering a completely charismatic performance.”
Though this year has seemed weaker than others thus far, there were several other high profile premieres at Cannes on Sunday and Monday.
The film is a cynical take on Hollywood, with Julianne Moore starring as an aging and desperate actress hoping to make a comeback by starring in a role originally played by her late mother; Wasikowska plays her assistant, who develops a Twitter friendship with Carrie Fisher. There is also a Justin Bieber-esque brat pop star to complete the equation; “Map to the Stars,” written by Bruce Wagner, is the sort of movie that Hollywood journalists love to embrace in order to assert their independence.
According to Sasha Stone, writing for TheWrap, the film “might be disturbing to those who don’t yet realize the corrupt and repugnant culture of celebrity we’re all living through right now. But Wagner slips in the most exquisite prose, which blows through the film like the Santa Ana winds scented with jasmine, California style. It is in these moments that the film is elevated beyond black comedy into existential surrealism.”
Also, just so future collaborators aren’t scared off, Julianne Moore made it clear that she loves her industry.
“I love the movie business, I’m not here to disparage it,” she told reporters at a post-screening press conference. “It is all about the desire to be seen.”
Curiously, then, HitFix opines that all the film industry experience boasted by those involved in the film is curiously absent from the final picture.
“One of the things that I find most immediately mystifying about the film is that, considering all the people involved and their collective decades and decades of experience in and around Hollywood, it curiously feels like they’re describing a place they have only a passing knowledge of, a place they know mainly by reputation and fantasy,” Drew McWeeny wrote.