Saturday, 17 January 2015

Best Supporting Actor 2014: Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher

Mark Ruffalo received his second Oscar nomination for portraying Dave Schultz in Foxcatcher.

Out of the three pivotal characters of John du Pont (Steve Carell), Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz, Dave is the least flashy role so to speak. You have the raw emotions of Mark, the increasingly deranged behavior of the rich John, and then you have Dave. Ruffalo has a challenge in making Dave seem relevant along with the other two which is perhaps made all the more difficult since he has the screen time of a supporting player unlike his counterparts. Ruffalo only really has one scene early on to establish Dave, who almost everyone seems to love and respect. Ruffalo actually gives, technically speaking, a very mannered performance. His particular way of speaking, not even his accent just the way he breaths almost, as well as the way he kinda always stands in a wrestling position. The thing is though it's hard to even see this as such because of how low-key Ruffalo is in playing this. He's really natural as he makes it just seem as though this is the way he is, and is pretty great at making himself Dave Schultz, especially if one goes and watches any footage of the real Schultz.

Ruffalo kinda takes a bit of a daring approach actually because he does not necessarily avoid making Dave somewhat bland. The thing is though its not that Ruffalo's performance is bland but in this case it actually makes sense for the character to be so. Ruffalo portrays Dave as a particularly easy going guy and does suggests everything about him is fairly relaxed. It is not that he is lazy or uninterested it anything, but rather Ruffalo plays him as just a man who knows how to take things as they come. There is a likability that comes from the way Ruffalo so honestly portrays Dave's approach to life and he makes it easy to understand why it that most everyone seems to like Dave. When he is with his family or when he training other wrestlers there's a very strong warmth that Ruffalo exudes. Ruffalo gives us Dave as a man who seems to love everyone from the outset, not in a cloying or overwrought way but just in an honest fashion. Ruffalo earns the respect that Dave seems to have because Ruffalo makes Dave a great man in such a wonderfully unassuming way.

One of the most important elements in his performance is his chemistry with Channing Tatum as Dave's younger brother Schultz. The two of them are great together in the very interesting way they create the relationship between the two. Mark clearly as a man is a bit lost whereas Dave seems to know his place, but wants to help his brother best he can. There's a great early scene for Ruffalo when Mark goes to Du Pont's Foxcatcher farm, but Dave stays home for the sake of his wife and kids. Dave rejects Mark's offer but it is only love that Ruffalo conveys in this rejection as you see in his eyes that he hops that Foxcatcher will provide Mark something to make him feel whole. The most important moments together though seem to be when they practice wrestling together. It's interesting how their physical performances show the connection between the two particularly in their styles. With Ruffalo showing Dave as more commanding but almost teaching in the way he handles Mark. Even outside of sparing the way Ruffalo portrays Dave's physical interactions with Mark suggests the older's brother's care and support for his younger brother.

Ruffalo keeps his whole performance very close to his chest, although I liked his work on my initial viewing, on re-watch I was surprised by how much he does within the margins. What Ruffalo does so well is keep Dave always as he should be, not an unemotional guy, but just a guy who does not let his emotions push him into the sort of mistakes John and Mark make. Ruffalo though does subtly convey what Dave is going through. A moment like this comes in a championship when, despite Dave's coaching giving him the advantage, Mark embraces John without recognizing Dave. Ruffalo quietly conveys the disappointment in Dave and perhaps even heartbreak, but as a man who refuses to let this wear on him. Another strong moment comes when Mark is loses one match and has a breakdown that leaves him ill prepared for the next match, Dave comes in though to salvage this best he can. Ruffalo has a brilliant understated passion as Dave pushes Mark hard to overcome what has happened. Dave does not yell things out or get really energetic like, but Ruffalo is terrific and convincing in portraying the understated way Dave encourages Mark.

It's interesting the way Ruffalo conveys the way Dave does disapprove of John, although there is never a single moment in which Dave says this. A great moment is when Dave is asked to make a video promoting John du Pont, and simply that slight hesitation and discomfort as he says du pont is like a mentor to him suggest Dave's distaste for John. Ruffalo is remarkable actually in the way he basically shows a man, who probably would never insult someone directly, is forced to deal with John. Ruffalo does this through the smallest of reactions and just a general uneasiness whenever Dave and John are in the same room. Ruffalo is very effective as he kinda does show how Dave's manner unfortunately could only make John even more paranoid. This eventually leads to the tragic end of the film when John shoots Dave to death. The scene it handled in a blunt matter of fact style, and I will admit it left me cold the first time. On this viewing though it hit me much harder than expected and I think this had a great deal to do with Mark Ruffalo's performance. He does great work here in creating an honest portrait of Dave Schultz as a modest yet self-actualized man.

34 comments:

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

Honestly, I thought he was pretty good but nothing special. Preferred him in Begin Again

Louis Morgan said...

That's how I felt before I re-watched it.

mcofra7 said...

I would agree with your review. He gives a wonderful understated performance.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

So did you like the entire film more on re-watch?

Kevin said...

And your ratings and thoughts for Tatum, unless you are saving him for the alternate reviews

Psifonian said...

Much better than his first nomination and the rest of his work of late (hated him in "The Normal Heart" and I did not care one iota for "Begin Again"). I was starting to have doubts about Ruffalo. It's a fine performance in a fine film. More I think on it, the more it feels of a piece with "The Master." Both deal with, I feel, the three parts of the human psyche. Only this time, roles and motivations are reversed.

Michael McCarthy said...

I didn't care so much for the film but I completely agree with everything in this review. I'm so glad you mentioned the scene where he snaps Mark out of it, I thought there was a lot of great nuance to his performance there. And his performance was honestly the only thing that kept me from laughing during Carell's HORRIBLE line delivery in the murder scene.

Louis Morgan said...

Robert: Yes, although I still have a few reservations.

Kevin:

I'm saving Tatum.

Matt Mustin said...

Why do I get the feeling that most of the reservations involve Carell?

Mark said...

It's interesting. Even though this category is no where near as strong as the lead category, it will still be one of the best supporting lineups of all time.

Anonymous said...

Ratings/thoughts on Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller?

luke higham said...

Mark: It will be the best of all time if either Simmons or Norton gets a 5, since the record holder, 1944 has a 5, 3 4.5s and 1 4.

luke higham said...

Louis: I pray hope you review all your 5s for lead since saving Tatum, pretty much indicates that he's getting a 5 as well and I could very well see more than ten for the overall ranking, as Keaton's the only certainty in the official lineup, although I wouldn't rule out Cooper & Cumberbatch.

JamDenTel said...

For most of the film I was kind of on the fence about him, and didn't totally see why he'd been so widely nominated, aside from it being a "weak" year. Then in the last third of the film I started to see what the fuss was about, and by the end I actually thought he might be the best of the three major performances. Carell and Tatum are both very good, I think, but Ruffalo's sensible counterpoint to their absurd zeal is very poignant.

mark said...

He makes decency seep through the screen and the interview scene is fabulous as you already feel from him that he doesn't approve of john relationship with his brother.greet review.

Lezlie said...

Who would be your five best directors this year?

GetDonaldSutherlandAnOscar said...

I have to say after re-watch Carrell is just fine. The voice just isn't Du Pont, but the physical creation of the character is actually rather brilliant.

Ruffalo has gone up quite a bit actually, to a 4. Carrell would be a 3.5 I guess, and I'm really on the fence with Tatum.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous: Both Miller and Redgrave are fine but are absurdly limited since the film really is a three character piece(even though there is a large amount of speaking roles).

Lezlie:

1. Alejandro González Iñárritu - Birdman
2. Damien Chazelle - Whiplash
3. Jennifer Kent - The Babadook
4. Paul Thomas Anderson - Inherent Vice
5. Bennett Miller - Foxcatcher

luke higham said...

Uh Oh, your placement of Miller, makes me believe that Carell isn't finishing last.

luke higham said...

Fuck it, I'm going to give my Lead Prediction now.
1. Keaton - 5
2. Cumberbatch - 4.5 or 5
3. Cooper - 4.5 or 5
4. Carell - 4.5
5. Redmayne - 4.5

RatedRStar said...

Steve Carell does not deserve a 4.5 or any positive score and will not be getting one LOUISSS and I love how some people are starting to change their tune on Carell when a couple of days ago everyone was angry that he was nominated but now some people seem delighted, and yet no one has actually tryed to tell me why they enjoyed Carell. Can someone defend this, maybe Louis can when it comes to Carells review

RatedRStar said...

Also, dont say to me anyone " oh its your opinion" because I dont believe in that crap I am using Holly Hunter from Broadcast News as an example, its not an opinion, if someone told me Taken 3 was great, shall I just nod my head like a little dog and agree with them, NOOO.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: What makes you think my opinion has changed, It isn't my personal rating, it's what I think Louis will give Carell. He's still a 4 for me, but there's no chance in hell he's getting any higher, he could only go lower for me. Also if that's Louis's opinion, I'm willing to accept it and just move on to the next review.

RatedRStar said...

I am forcing my mum to watch High and Low now because I demand taste in my family.

RatedRStar said...

You would give him a 4, I would give him a 2, I just dont see what everyone sees in him, I am just gonna wait now until the Carell review happens and then we ll see what he thinks.

koook160 (Robert MacFarlane) said...

I don't even give a shit if Louis likes Carell or not. Just like I don't care if he hates Boyhood. His opinion, and I enjoy reading his reasoning.

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Let me Reiterate that I'm still extremely pissed off about Carell's nomination since it may rob guys like Spall, Cage & McConaughey from deserving reviews and Gyllenhaal had the best performance of the year BAR NONE!!!.

RatedRStar said...

Well Ive always loved his opinion, 5 years of loyalty have proven that.

luke higham said...

4 1/2 years for me though didn't start commenting until November of 2013.
I've always loved his opinion, I find no one more trustworthy than him and I'm willing to defend his right to an contrarian opinion as well.

Lezlie said...

I've only been here for 3 years, but it's more like "it's been 3 years already?".

RatedRStar said...

@Louis: Even though I mouth off at and to you sometimes, I hope you understand that I think your the best and that I have always respected you lol, same as everyone else on the blog, I value Luke, Robert, the two Michaels, and all the people I personally dont know all that well and in fact, so much so that Mark Kermodes opinion, matters less to me than everyone on the blog.

luke higham said...

Thank You Gunners, we're now, 5 points ahead of Mank Shitty.

moviefilm said...

Yes, his physical transformation was fine. But it doesn't matter, if it gets destroyed by a terrible voice work. Not only was he not similar to Du Pont, but it is even absolutely bland a emotion-less. That completely destroys his otherwise great transformation (even in terms of makeup)...

luke higham said...

RatedRStar: Your top 5 anticipated films of 2015.

I know I forgot to mention this, but I'm really looking forward to Ex Machina starring Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander.