Director: Bennett Miller
Writer: E. Maxe Frye and Dan Futterman
Cinematographer: Greig Fraser
by Susan Bartley
I must have missed something when watching this film. Maybe it was because I checked it out on Christmas Day, which is typically reserved for much lighter and easy going fair. In THR’s Directors Roundtable, Bennett Miller mentioned that the initial cut was four hours long. Sure there was probably some fat, so let’s just say there was three and a half hours, even three hours of solid material which hit the floor. It was extremely apparent that there was a lot missing between these sequences.
I didn’t understand the falling out between John du Pont (Steve Carell) and Mark Schutlz (Channing Tatum). The two start doing coke, there’s a questionable sexual relationship (which I don’t understand why it was unclear. If it happened Miller should have showed or discussed it more directly, and if it was just rumored then that seems unfair to Mark's memory; though, perhaps this was something that hit the editing floor). Later, du Pont gets pissed when the team is watching MMA fights on television, embarrassing Mark who then shuts down completely. His hero is no longer his hero because they had a fight. This seems strangely juvenile, yet again, as in there has to be more to this story than we’re seeing.
The brother, Dave Schultz, is then brought in, where Mark Ruffalo gives an absolutely amazing performance as the only stable person in the film. He cares for his family, wants to win properly, and is a good brother to Mark. And so comes the traditional sport movie arc, where combined with the strange du Pont story just doesn’t deliver. I felt strange rooting for Mark to win when it was all financed by a crazy person who would go on to murder them. I didn’t know the ending, deliberately avoiding reading about the du Pont case, but seeing the iconic image of Carell walking into the gym with a gun forced a pretty good and accurate guess.
The film seems to capitalize on how strange du Pont was, punched up by Carell who put on an amazing performance, though I couldn’t get Michael Scott out of my head during the awkward scenes when he dressed up and tried to wrestle. It seemed to abide by a fairly consistent formula for a 2.25 hour running time - there is a weird and uncomfortable scene, transition to a few bird shots, some wides of the forest and estate, and we go straight into another weird and uncomfortable scene. This keeps going on, and like The Master, it flatlines very quickly. It seems to be building to something, spending too much time trying to make us feel uncomfortable, and too little time getting deep into the relationship between du Pont and Mark. As strange as it all was, it felt as though it was only touching the surface. I would love to see that four cut.
BELOW: Where the story more or less peaks. From my recollection this occurred about a quarter of the way, getting you excited for where things were looking to go. Unfortunately, it quickly levels off.
Thoughts on films, old and new
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