Bennett Miller's latest offering is a Palme d'Or winner for Best Director and a multi-Academy Awards nominee - and I really liked Moneyball - so the expectations were high going in, but unfortunately, it was not as great as to be expected.
As a film, it felt lost and disjointed. Does Miller want to do a sports - wrestling - film, or a character study? And if the latter, who is the focus on? Steve Carell's John du Pont or Channing Tatum's Mark Schultz? There never really was a clear focus.
I appreciate the fact that Miller did not show everything but trust in the audience to be intelligent enough to follow, however, in the end, it felt like a true-crime retelling (think: FX's Fargo) rather than an intelligent exploration into the psyche of the persons involved. Writers E Max Frye and Dan Futterman script was filled with too much assumptions - for which Miller also expected the audience to make - regarding the characters actions and motivations.
Then we come to the acting.
Carell definitely showed that he can do drama, but is he getting recognised for being a good actor or for being a better actor than what most people expected him to be? His portrayal of du Pont was constant throughout, and with the aid of the prosthetic nose, Carell was seldom glimpsed, but his - and Miller's choice - to inject du Pont's speech with that slow, monotonous and passionless drawl was a bad one. Even his character, as pointed out above, was not fleshed fully and many a times, we are left to just assume which made his character disturbingly one-dimensional. And again, Jake Gyllenhaal was robbed.
If the show was about Mark Schultz, then - sorry - a better actor than Tatum should have been approached for the role. Tatum did a good job, but not a great one. Like Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, keeping silent with a thousand yard stare but blank eyes does not a good actor maketh (see how Marion Cotillard does it in almost any of her works). But then again, this was not really Schultz's story, or was it?
Ruffalo was the only saving grace, but mainly because his character was the most straight-forward, Family always first. Oh wait, his brother was sometimes first and sometimes second.
In all, a good movie with a fascinating story somewhere within.