One of the last few “unknown” projects on the radar heading into the Oscar season has clarified its position, prompting us to carve out a slot in the Best Picture race – at least, for the time being.
Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher is one of those projects that, at least on paper, sounds like a veritable awards contender. Now we know when it’s coming. The Hollywood Reporter backed up that claim by reporting that Sony Pictures Classics will release the drama on Dec. 20, putting it in prime position to attract Academy attention as voters are weighing nominees in key Oscar categories.
Miller, of course, has a tremendous track record when it comes to the Oscars. He has helmed two feature films to date -- Capote and Moneyball -- both of which have been nominated for Best Picture. He helped guide Brad Pitt to a Best Actor nomination, and Philip Seymour Hoffman to a Best Actor win.
When a director catches the Academy’s eye with every film they have released, we’re obviously going to pay very close attention to the next film that they do. And the plot of Foxcatcher sounds like it could be right in the Academy’s wheelhouse. Based on a true story, it follows a schizophrenic, psychopathic multi-millionaire named John du Pont (Steve Carell), who murders Olympic-medalist wrestler Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), then terrorizes the wrestler’s brother, Mark (Channing Tatum), a fellow Olympic medalist. Got all of that? The story grabbed headlines back in 1996, mainly because du Pont comes from a prestigious family, but also because he murdered Dave in broad daylight, in the driveway of the du Pont mansion … then secluded himself in the home for two days, creating a tense siege.
It sounds a drastic shift for Miller, though Capote was a true-crime drama-thriller driven by elaborate characters and top-shelf acting. Carell and Ruffalo certainly are capable of soul-searching performances. The wild card will be Tatum, who absolutely has grown and matured as an actor. Turn him over to Miller, who has shown great strength working with multi-faceted actors, and we could see something truly special. Heck, Miller helped Jonah Hill get an Oscar nomination for Moneyball so miracles truly are possible!
The only real issue I can see for Foxcatcher landing at SPC is that the smaller distributor already has a healthy slate of Oscar hopefuls, and attention might be diverted away from Miller’s work. SPC will back Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight, Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, John Krokidas' Kill Your Darlings (Oct. 18), Asghar Farhadi's The Past (Dec. 20) and Ralph Fiennes' The Invisible Woman as the season rolls on. Could one of them steal focus away from Foxcatcher? Sure, but the best of the bunch should separate from the pack. We’ll see as the season progresses, but at least we know that Foxcatcher is coming, and we know when.