Movie Review – Foxcatcher (2015)

Director: Bennett Miller

Stars: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo

Based on a true story, Foxcatcher follows the events around the build up to the 1988 Olympics. Mark Schultz (Tatum) is drifting and jumps at the opportunity to live at the Du Pont residence with John (Carell), who offers to coach him and pay him $25,000 a year. After setting up a team of wrestlers, Mark and John’s relationship takes a dangerous turn. In order to steady the ship John brings in Mark’s brother, Dave (Ruffalo), but is threatened by Dave’s authority.

I had been looking forward to Foxcatcher. I generally enjoy sports films (more than I enjoy sports) and the three leads, and it generally looked like a tense affair. It centers around the mid-80s as the wrestling team prepare for the 88 Olympics, and it’s an era I knew nothing about (in fact I hadn’t heard anything about this saga until the film came out). I liked how the sport of wrestling seemed to parallel the general theme of the movie, that of controlling other people and exerting your will upon theirs. Carell has been rightly lauded for his performance as Du Pont, and on occasion he is unrecognizable, although there are points where familiar mannerisms creep through. Tatum was the standout though, bringing a quiet, brooding intensity to the role. Ruffalo was good as well, but he didn’t have to stretch himself as much as the other two did.

Despite that, the film fell flat to me. I found that it dragged, and by the end I didn’t quite understand why people were doing what they did. It also failed in making wrestling interesting to watch, so even the interludes of sporting action were lifeless affairs. The whole film felt tired and weary, and I wouldn’t have minded had that glacial pace been building to something, but even when the climax occurred it was without much suspense.

The turning point for me was the drug use. Up until then I knew where everyone stood and the dynamics of the characters. Mark and Du Pont were growing closer and there were some inappropriate overtones to their relationship, then Mark gets introduced to cocaine, there’s a blurry hint that a homosexual encounter took place (and really, it is only just a hint) then suddenly Mark doesn’t want anything to do with it anymore, and it’s never explained why. Du Pont also seems to get more controlling at this point but its like their characters just shifted, and suddenly there was a rift present but it gave me the feeling that I was missing something. To me, the film felt distant, like it was never allowing me to immerse myself into it.

I was sorely disappointed in it, and I’m surprised it’s been getting as much buzz and praise as it has. There must be something I’m missing, because it didn’t gel with me at all. I don’t know what the filmmakers set out to accomplish but whatever it was it didn’t achieve it, for me at least. I can’t recommend this one at all. I know there have been Oscar nominations but I honestly can’t see why people are praising it so highly. It feels far too long for what it is and I didn’t enjoy it at all.

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