It was inevitable that Steve Carell would try to take on drama after successfully using every conceivable angle in comedy for TV and movies. In fact, some of his movie characters were starting to look a little too much the same in his most recent films if you exclude his Russian accent voice work in the “Despicable Me” franchise. Plus, there’s only so many beards and hair styles you can wear in trying to disguise yourself before you have to do something off the wall where you’re not recognized at all. Now Carell has gone there without necessarily having to be uncomfortable during the making of an entire movie.
If you’ve seen the clip for his upcoming “Foxcatcher” about the odd and murderous wrestling coach John du Pont, then you know that Carell has finally found the drama part he needed to steer away from comedies. What makes this performance different, though, is his perfect capturing of du Pont’s way of talking that was usually adorned with long pauses in-between his sentences. It’s a method of dialogue that would have been more challenging to take on in a biopic made many years ago.
By being more accurate, Carell may be singlehandedly repairing the biopic while also setting a new dramatic acting path that’s out of the ordinary. In the former case, it comes just in time for biopics when many of them are being accused of not being accurate enough. For the latter, Carell may be setting a path for other actors to take on a more natural dramatic way of acting that sounds like real dialogue rather than affected dialogue designed to capture the attention of Oscar voters.
“Foxcatcher” Bringing Realism to the Biopic
I’ve written recently about the state of the biopic and how much trouble it may be in now after “Grace of Monaco” and a new biopic on Nina Simone received fierce criticism at Cannes directly from the families. The notion that a biopic has the freedom to take creative liberties isn’t being tolerated any longer and perhaps paving a rocky road for future biopics going on the old Hollywood traditional path. Biopics never have been a place where you’re going to get the absolute truth.
With “Foxcatcher”, it might be setting the bar for bringing things to as close of a truth as possible. This even includes dialogue scenes that match real life to give the feel of a documentary rather than a piece of fiction. The new preview clip of “Foxcatcher” is a brilliant showcase for that more natural style as if eavesdropping on the real conversation between creepy du Pont and his wrestling protégé, Mark Schultz (played by Channing Tatum).
It may not be surprising coming from director Bennett Miller since he’s brought more realistic dialogue to biopics, especially in “Capote.” Many scenes in aforementioned film felt as if you were right there with the real Truman Capote as he interacted with those who made his book “In Cold Blood” possible. It helped to have Philip Seymour Hoffman at the helm, though Carell may prove just as formidable.
Will Carell change dramatic acting style and be able to convince his peers to take on more natural dialogue?
The Beauty of Natural Dialogue in Film
It used to be that natural dialogue in film would have to be cornered off as part of Cinema Verite rather than traditional ways of speaking dialogue. A film with natural dialogue in the older era of film would have confused viewers to a point where they’d think they were watching a documentary. After all these years, we’re still not at a point where we’d accept natural dialogue all the way through a film. It’s because we’re conditioned to accept histrionics in order to think the actor or actress is earning their paycheck and possible movie award nomination.
Should Carell be nominated for a Golden Globe and Oscar for his performance of du Pont, it may finally set a precedent for the type of acting that should have become mainstream years ago rather than being experimental. This may also be proof that learning improvisation skills with your acting can help you achieve this successfully. It’s no secret that Carell is a product from Chicago’s The Second City where he nurtured improv chops to use to his advantage in the field of comedy.
Yes, it’s possible the unlikeliest source of Steve Carell could shift things in new directions for Hollywood. Even if going from comedy to drama seems a logical step for all comedians, doing that without being ostentatious is a Herculean task that Oscar should finally reward rather than give off feelings of skepticism.