Bennett Miller follows up on ‘Capote’ and ‘Moneyball’ with another biopic. Two brothers, both former Olympic wrestling champions (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) develop a fateful friendship with paranoid schizophrenic billionaire John duPont (Steve Carell. As Miller proved in ‘Capote’, and ‘Moneyball’, he is able to draw the best performances out of his cast. I find myself liking ‘Foxcatcher’ more and more as I think back to it. It is a meticulously detailed piece of work; a slow boiling study of patriotism and winner obsessions that builds and devastates, dealing with the emotional uncertainty of its characters rather than the perverse extremities less gifted filmmaker would bring to the project. Expect Oscar nominations for all three actors (yes, including Channing Tatum), as well as for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and best MakeUp and Hairstyling. I expect ‘Foxcatcher’ to be polarizing when it hits the masses; it’s arms-length approach will leave some viewers in the cold.
Xavier Dolan’s ‘Mommy’ is by far my favorite movie of TIFF14 so far. Single mother (Anne Dorval) barely copes with her troubled teenage son (Antoine-Oliver Pilon). I was stunned to realize Dolan is only 25 years old; ‘Mommy’ feels like the world of a very accomplished and seasoned filmmaker. The 6X6 (or 1X1) framing aesthetic make the emotions pop out more. It isn’t a gimmicky practice; Dolan said he chose this ratio so we’re locked into the eyes of the characters. He gets the camera up close to his actors and lets them rip. Nothing about ‘Mommy’ is predictable; this was made clear when a character reaches out and pushes the film’s aspect ratio to fit the whole screen. Many positive adjectives can and will be used to describe ‘Mommy’, but for now, I’ll just settle on one: “beautiful”.
THE LOOK OF SILENCE ★★★
‘The Look of Silence’ is Joshua Oppenheimer’s follow-up to ‘The Act of Killing’ (one of the best documentaries of last year). This time we follow a family (who after viewing the first film) discovers and confronts the men who killed their son during Indonesia’s anti-communist purges of the 1960s. Oppenheimer is essentially telling the same story as he did last time but through a much more conventional focus. ‘The Act of Killing’ gave the executioners the freedom to boast of their accomplishments, having them re-enact horrifically violent events with no remorse. The results were shocking and harrowing. Less so in ‘The Look of Silence’, which shifts its focus to the suffering inflicted on the family members of the victims. The camera lingers on the fallen faces – the look, presumably to which the title refers, is raw, affecting, and unforgettable.
A SECOND CHANCE ★★★
This was a difficult watch. Susanne Bier’s ‘A Second Chance’ follows a police officer (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) with a wife and new baby, who is faced with his own personal tragedy, and makes a fateful decision involving a pair of junkie parents. He believes this decision to be its own form of justice. Superb work from Coster-Waldau; it’s from his shifting viewpoint that we watch the events of this film unfold. This is one of Bier’s better efforts; plot details, which may appear to be extreme on paper, are totally credible as the movie plays out. She also knows how to create a creeping sense of dread within this narrative.