Review: Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher - Amazing performances, beautiful cinematography and an ambitious character study will please fans of patient dramas
  • Foxcatcher - Amazing performances, beautiful cinematography and an ambitious character study will please fans of patient dramas

Summary

Director Bennett Miller presents "Foxcatcher" and tells a familiar tale of power, dominance and brotherly love. Oh and Steve Carell with a prosthetic nose.

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Foxcatcher, directed by Bennet Miller, has been getting a lot of publicity recently, due to the grim events that inspired it and the three striking performances from Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum and Steve Carell. The film follows professional  wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum) who  feels that, despite having won an Olympic gold medal,  he is still hidden in his older and  more successful brother’s (Ruffalo) shadow. He decides to train with ageing millionaire John E. du Pont, who has requested him for his “Team Foxcatcher”, to lead the team for the ’88 Olympic games. If you are not aware of the grisly events that follow afterwards, I will not spoil them here, and you should really try to avoid spoilers (if possible) as the film’s finale really will hit you much harder. However, even if you are aware of the infamous events, the film is still a must watch.

Both Carell and Tatum have gathered  a lot of awards buzz,  and with both actors being relatively new to  strong dramatic roles such as these, it is easy to see why. This is without a doubt Tatum’s best performance so far and he has really shown in this picture that he can hold a dramatic role; the opening sequence, where he speaks around two sentences, shows just that. Mark Ruffalo should not be overlooked however; whilst Carell and Tatum are the names being said most with regards for best performance, there is a fantastic subtlety about Ruffalo’s character. Kind and protective, he is the perfect counter-piece to Tatum’s rage and angst. Steve Carell however, I could see taking home best picture. Playing perfectly against type, he builds John E. du Pont up as a man obsessed by his own legend, believing that his money and his history can create his legacy, only for it to crumble in his own hands. Not only is Carell unrecognisable  – something the Academy Awards love (just saying) – with a beak-like nose and small, darting eyes, his speech is broken and slow, his body is stiff and observant and his voice is  a sort of nasal wheeze guaranteed to make your skin crawl.

However, if you were to take away the three magnificent performances , the film would simply not be anywhere near as interesting. While it is filmed beautifully, with long wide shots of the du Pont mansion and the frantic wrestling scenes,  the story unfolds at a snail’s place. When a film is based on a true story, some important plot points may not be the most interesting but need to be included, and I understand this, but I don’t feel like Foxcatcher needed to be a film with a two-hour-plus running time.  As the plot is fairly straight forward , the film does try it’s best to find some answers to the questions raised in the aftermath of the “events” and I found this to be very interesting. Themes such as nature vs nurture, money and power, and the bond between brothers (shown brilliantly in the opening scene between Tatum and Ruffalo) are common throughout Foxcatcher and I think that, although we will never truly know exactly why what happened happened, at least Foxcatcher is ambitious enough to try and break into the psychology of its characters.

Foxcatcher is a film that relies very heavily on its three performances, and that is not a harsh criticism when you are talking about some of the best performances of the year. However, the film’s slow pace will definitely not be for everyone, and will likely leave some audiences wondering when the 40-year old virgin got so creepy.

 

 

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