The Good: Foxcatcher (2014)
Carell’s dangerous U-turn into dramatic territory took form in Bennet Miller’s tragic true-story, Foxcatcher. As the awkward misfit of a millionaire, John du Pont, Carell is positively chilling, acting through the startling prosthetics with subtlety and nuance. His nasally tones are as comical as they are terrifying, and he’s given phenomenal support by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, both (like Carell) giving career-best performances. A peak for all involved, Foxcatcher is a deeply uncomfortable, borderline unwatchable character study, wrapped up in the package of the darkest sports movie you’ll ever see. Apparently, Miller has a four hour cut kicking around, so two extra hours of Carell’s best work will always be coveted.
The Bad: The Big Short (2015)
Alright, I’ll admit it; Steve Carell turns out to be the best thing in Adam McKay’s ambitious financial crisis drama, but one of this year’s biggest Oscar magnets is hardly another Wolf of Wall Street. Simultaneously patronising and alienating, it’s an attempt to dumb down big numbers for mainstream audiences while also completely patronising them. The rather degrading scene of Margot Robbie in a bubble bath telling us the significance of something or other (I’ve forgotten already; well done, movie!) is a stab at appealing to the supposedly sex-crazed general public, and not even Carell can escape this misguided black hole of an approach.
The Ugly: Dinner For Schmucks (2010)
Wor Steve’s often best when he’s mugging for his life (see: the iconic Brick Tamland in Anchorman), but not when the film doesn’t catch up with him. A remake of the French farce, Le dîner de cons, Dinner For Schmucks assembles a bunch of comedic firecrackers and forgets to light the fuse, with Paul Rudd, Jermaine Clement and Zach Galafianakis wandering around like lost sheep in a film that seemingly never ends. The light in the dark turns out to be Carell’s ‘mousterpieces’, which are rather disturbing dioramas of taxidermised mice re-enacting pop culture references. So, yeah, pretty gruesome.