Oscar Buzz Erupts at Cannes for Steve Carell and 'Foxcatcher'

May 19, 2014

The film that was last year’s Oscar race reject took a sharp turn toward awards season glory on Monday night at the Cannes Film Festival in the south of France.

Based on the true story of mentally disturbed millionaire heir—and killer—John E. du Pont, Foxcatcher garnered a round of jubilant applause and shouts of approval from international press members who screened the film on Monday ahead of the film’s gala premiere. 

“Steve Carell is an Oscar lock,” wrote Variety’s Ramin Setoodeh, who compares the 51-year-old actor’s onscreen transformation to Jared Leto’s Oscar-winning turn as a transgender woman in Dallas Buyers Club, using in this case a ”prosthetic nose (a la Nicole Kidman in The Hours), false teeth, and a receding hairline.”  Setoodeh also notes that Sony Pictures Classics hasn’t decided yet whether to submit the 51-year-old actor’s name in the lead or supporting Oscar categories. 

Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter shared the sentiment, saying Carrell’s take on du Pont—who killed Olympic wrestling champion Dave Schultz in 1996—is a career changer.  ”An astonishing and utterly unexpected serious turn,” McCarthy writes.

Mark Ruffalo, as the ill-fated Schultz, and Channing Tatum, who plays his brother, Mark, are both “exceptional,” says Variety’s Justin Chang. The two wrestlers are, to this day, the only American brothers to have ever won both Olympic and world championships. Tatum has “the perpetual frown and painfully inarticulate speech of a man who, despite having won a gold medal for wrestling at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, has been made to feel like an underachiever for much of his life,” writes Chang. 

Indiewire writer Jessica Kiang observes that director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote) “has already proven that he has the uncanny ability to spin exquisite, immersive, intelligent stories from material that on paper might not seem so appealing.” But with Foxcatcher, she writes, “he has outdone himself, turning his uniquely meticulous eye to a tiny story in a totally rarefied, specific environment and through whatever alchemy he has perfected, created something so universal and resonant that it feels epic, sprawling, almost ancient in its mythic overtones.”

In the minority, a negative review from Slant Magazine’s Budd Wilkins states, “Foxcatcher squanders inherently intriguing material… by sapping it of any dramatic or satiric potential in favor of a smothering mood of muted solemnity.”

For the moment however, the instant groundswell behind the movie and its villainous actor appears to be drowning out the naysayers.

Another indication the drama is poised for awards contention: its release date: Foxcatcher opens in the U.S. on Nov. 14— dead in the middle of Oscar season. 

Photos: Sony Pictures Classics, Vittorio Zunino Celotto/Getty Images