Foxcatcher: Film Review

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I have never read a bad word about Foxcatcher so my expectations were so freaking high. While I could appreciate the amazing performances from Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum, I found the film itself very slow and a lot of hard work.

Steve Carell stars as John Du Pont, a billionaire who becomes the new sponsor for professional wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). Schultz relocates to his Pennsylvania estate to train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics but their relationship becomes fraught when Du Pont introduces him to drugs and exhibits odd behaviour. Tensions between them worsen when Mark’s brother and superior wrestler Dave Schultz moves to the estate to coach him and it all leads up to one tragic event.

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I read up on the real-life Du Pont/Schultz story so I knew how this was going to end but I still felt like the main, tragic incident came out of nowhere. The events prior did not adequately build up to that moment, nor did they truthfully portray Du Pont’s mental state at the time. The film shows him as being a loner, a bit weird and strange but never mentally unwell, yet if you read up on him online, that is a huge factor in the trial later.

Well the performances are incredible, I did not feel like the characterisation of the three leads were solid and well-rounded. You got small fragments of them and they rarely spoke about their feelings – it was a lot of suppressed anger and resentment, where some moments could have done with more overt emotion and I would have liked a deeper exploration of their relationships/power struggles with each other.

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The film is over two hours but it felt much longer because it is punctuated with a lot of silence. There is little music here and none of the leads are great talkers, so scenes always contain so much silence. This doesn’t always add to the tension – sometimes it dulls it. Conversations were slow-moving and without flow. This meant that you didn’t always know what was going on, why he was in a mood, why they don’t like each other anymore etc etc. It made it hard work because you have to guess a lot and make many assumptions. Why does Mark not care about wrestling anymore? You don’t know. You started to question if you’ve paying enough attention!

Because of this, you don’t really understand Mark’s issue with Du Pont, or Du Pont’s issue with Dave. What is the reason for it? Again, it is unclear. This means the end event is not emotional because you never felt that invested in any of the characters. Even the real Dave Schultz has blasted the version of events in the film saying they are inaccurate, that he never saw Du Pont as a hero/father figure and he despised him from the beginning.

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So I have issues with the film itself in terms of dialogue and characterisation but I cannot fault the acting. Tatum and Ruffalo must have studied wrestling hard to convincingly do those moves and Tatum adopts this weight gait and strong jaw, which transforms him. It is his strongest performance so far. Carell is virtually unrecognisable with a fake nose and teeth and I impressed that he was given his role, considering what he is normally known for. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was nominated for an Oscar, but I don’t imagine he would win.

I would definitely recommend you see this simply to see these extraordinary performances but do not expect to enjoy it or to find it a breeze. It takes patience and concentration. It is an interesting story though, but you may have to read more about it online afterwards to fill in the blanks and get the full picture.

 

Released: 9th January

Trackbacks

  1. […] Foxcatcher: I was so mad that Bennett Miller was nominated for Foxcatcher. The performances of Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo were worthy, yes, but the direction, no way. The pacing was off, consequently making an interesting real-life story a very, very dull movie. Read my review here. […]

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