We Need to Talk About John: "Foxcatcher" strongly acted, well-told Oscar bait
134 min., rated R.
Like when Robin Williams played a disturbed photo guy in "One Hour Photo," it is now funnyman Steve Carell's turn to try out the dark side and doggone it if he doesn't knock off the viewer's socks. Losing himself completely into the role of John du Pont, he is understated and unnerving because of it. His eyes are cold and dead. His gait is slow and almost elderly. He seems so uncomfortable in his own skin that he lives through Mark. In playing this pathetic, entitled monster of a man who prefers Mark to call him "Eagle" or "Golden Eagle," it is revelatory that Carell had it in him. It's truly a chilling, transformative piece of acting that goes well beyond an eagle-like prosthetic nose and lightly shaved eyebrows, and could change the course of his career; his Oscar nomination is obviously in the bag. Not to be outdone, Channing Tatum outstandingly rises to the challenge of playing a character stripped of the charisma we usually expect from the actor on whom the jury is now in. As the lonely, lunkheaded Mark, he has the beefed-up physicality and swagger of a wrestler (with a jutting jaw and what appears to be marbles in his mouth, making his face resemble a bulldog), not to mention the mentality of one, too, and there's a stoic sadness that Tatum fulfills in the part. Matching his co-stars with more screen time, Mark Ruffalo is quite exceptional, too, in the least showy and most open of the three roles; it's particularly telling how good he is when Dave is asked to describe du Pont as a mentor for a TV interview and he loses all ability to articulate. Vanessa Redgrave, as John's disapproving mother Jean who sees through her son, doesn't have many scenes, but she makes an impact, and a de-glammed Sienna Miller appears in mom jeans as Dave's wife, Nancy.
Grade: B +