Friday, 30 January 2015


Foxcatcher, 2014
Directed by Bennett Miller
Nominated for 5 Oscars including Best Director, Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor

Foxcatcher is the strange true story of Olympic wrestling brothers, Mark and Dave Schultz, and eccentric millionaire, john du Pont, who recruits them to Faxcatcher Farms, a wrestling training camp. Mark and Dave are both gold-medal winners at the 1984 Olympics. But Mark has fallen on hard times after the Olympics. He is broke and jobless, training for Worlds. But when Mark gets an out-of-the-blue call saying that john du Pont (of the du Pont family) would like to meet him and offer him a coaching position, Mark jumps on board. A chance to finally outshine his golden older brother and live a better life, Mark and John du Pont strike up an interesting relationship.

Foxcatcher is a film I've been excited about for a long, long time. Moneyball is one of my favourite movies, and I also immensely enjoyed Capote. Also, I kind of love Steve Carell and have been waiting to see him take on a great role for a long time.

However, Foxcatcher is a film that just didn't seem to connect with me. Don't get me wrong, it's an extremely well made film, but there's just something I can't put my finger on about why I walked out of the theatre and just kind of shrugged. The acting was excellent, the story was twisted and weird, it's beautifully shot and well directed. Part of me thinks it's maybe because I just simply didn't understand Mark Schultz or John du Pont.

Channing Tatum as Mark was quite good. Tatum finally has an opportunity where he is pushed by the actors and the director working on this film. He gives a pretty good performance but just the amount of presence he had on screen was quite incredible, itself. I'm not really sure how to describe it, but Tatum's character is really quite silent and sullen, yet we are always drawn to him and just sense him in the shot. He dominates. With his slack jaw (which I hate but it works well here) and this strange slouchy yet controlled posture, Mark is someone not to be reckoned with. And not a lot of people do. Lonely, except for his brother Dave. Except he's not exactly warm with Dave either. An older brother who seems to constantly be in the limelight and have his life together, Mark seeks to break free of the association. However, when he meets du Pont and decides to move to Foxcatcher Farms, we get this eerie sense of "what is he thinking?" Mark seems to have very little detail about du Pont or what the job is at Foxcatcher or anything. It seems to make little sense as to why Mark would take this job out of the blue. And it sets up this feeling that resonates throughout the rest of the film. This sense of "something isn't quite right...".

Steve Carell as John du Pont is incredible. So unlike anyone Carell has played before and often completely unrecognizable. There are a few times in the movie where I'm just looking at him and I just don't see Carell at all. The make up in incredible and Carell has really nailed the glazed and unregistering look. du Pont, like Mark, is also lonely. Surrounded by wealth, mansions and a snooty mother (who loves horses and disproves of wrestling), it also doesn't really seem to make a lot of sense, on the surface, why du Pont would start at training camp for the Team USA wrestlers. He knows very little about wrestling. And it only seems to be Dave who asks the question "what doe he get out of all of this?" du Pont is someone who is vicariously living through others, and this is the ultimate way to do it. John du Pont is an extremely unsettling person, to the audience. Like Tatum, Carell has such a presence on screen, but for an extremely different reason. Carell has the unsettling and almost creepy (but not quite) presence, balanced expertly. We don't initially have any reason to suspect du Pont is a bad person, but we find him unsettling (for reasons we can't intially explain) all the same. Carell seems to easily balance du Pont and gave him nuance that could easily have been left behind. Nuance is key to a character like du Pont and Carell nails it with perfection. However, and this is no complaint or dig against Carell's performance, but there were just a handful of times where it felt like these lines could've easily been something Michael Scott would've said. The line of "horses are stupid!" had me cracking up a little bit. This was simply because I know the Office so well and knew it was Carell rather than Carell not being compeltely absorbed. In fact, Carell seemed to be completely absorbed and completely not himself. While I don't think he necessarily deserves to win the Oscar for Lead Actor this year, but he could've given JK Simmons a run for his money had he decided to campaign in that category.

Dave Schultz is the sole voice of reason. But also a cause for a lot of drama (though not explicitly said so by many of the characters). I'm sure being overshadowed by a sibling is a difficult thing and this is what brings a lot of the tension between various characters. Mark Ruffalo gave a subtle performance as Dave. He really embraced the late 80's and he reminded me so much of old family photos I've seen from that time period. Ruffalo made it all look so easy and subtle. There was nothing overly flashy about his role or his character. But that's what makes the performance so good, that it doesn't really seem like a performance at all, but just a person being.

Honestly, this is a tough one for me. Everything I seem to want to say about this film, everything that comes close to negative, I feel was essential and used purposely and pointedly in the film. Yes, it's slow and methodical. It isn't trying to force everything down your throat, it just laying the story out as is. You get to see everyone's point of view, and you get to make up your own mind about each of the characters. Foxcatcher is underwhelming, but I felt like that's the point. It's bleak, and that's the point. It moves slowly, and does not play out like you'd expect it to, but that's also the point. This movie tells a story, but it's not here to entertain us. It's a retelling of a tragic and twisted story that involved an eccentric millionaire and Olympic wrestling brothers. Just everything negative I want to say about this film, that was the exact point it was trying to hit and it hit it so well. And I feel like all of these points are valid. The more I seem to think and write about this, the more I feel myself being pulled in to try and understand what happened. The film doesn't really try to validate the events or explain motives or it's characters. And the more I think about it, the more powerful that is.

I'm not really sure I can give Foxcatcher a rating. It's a film that is a different and more bleak telling of the story than I initially expected. All the cast and crew are on top form and have made a beautiful and horrifying film. While I initially walked out the theatre shrugging, it has also had me constantly questioning what exactly it is about this film that I simultaneously didn't care for but also highly respect and keep thinking about.

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