Lots of movies hit the market at a pretty alarming rate and a film can get released with you expecting one thing, but you actually end up getting something else entirely. “Foxcatcher” is a grim but gripping cinematic experience where great performances outweigh some by the numbers direction in this uniquely paced and intense bio picture.
It’s hard for Olympic amateur athletes to get ahead, and in the 1980’s was even harder as Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) trains with his brother Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) in preparation for the 1988 Seoul Games. Money is scarce and it is always an uphill climb, even though both men have won an Olympic Gold medal for their country in the past. Enter eccentric millionaire John DuPont (Steve Carrel) who wants to finance their quest for gold. However things take a weird turn as Mark and John develop an unhealthy bond and Dave gets caught in the middle of it all as neither man feels like they can live up to their own self imposed expectations of being someone as revered as Dave is.
To use a wrestling parlance, with “Foxcatcher” it really feels like director Bennett Miller is competing a little out of his weight class and gets carried to a victory thanks to some fantastic performances by his three leads who truly embrace the material.
Don’t get me wrong, “Foxcatcher” has a certain magnetism and Miller knows how to tell a story in a fairly efficient manner but the movie couldn’t help create some instances where it just felt awkwardly out of place and like we were waiting for something to happen. As we are confronted with this story of the abuses of wealth and how it can be all encompassing and all consuming we are locked into this world through images of the proverbial haves and have not’s and it is fascinating as a very deliberate slow burn but it many ways this actually takes a little too much time to get to where it needs to go and could have potentially used a little pruning to turn it into something great. From the run down training centers, Mark getting fast food as his protein before a workout to the excess of the DuPont estate and the misery that surrounds it all, we can’t help but watch even when we know it’s only going to get worse before it gets better. It’s not a movie that is rife with dialogue, the script from Dan Futterman and E Max Frye allows for the subtle and quiet moments in between to resonate as the actors are the ones truly directing this ship and Miller was if anything more of tool to simply nudge it all in the right direction as the leads are the ones who unquestionably did the heavy lifting this time out.
While the world is raving for Steve Carell’s transformation into John DuPont and deservedly so as he managed to craft a genuinely creepy aura about him as he slinked across the screen the genuine kudos has to go to both Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Tatum inhabits Mark Schultz with a singular purpose and a tragic irony as we see this man who is trying so hard to live up to the ideals that he holds himself to not realizing that he is pushing himself farther than he could have imagined in the name of his chance for perfection. Both Tatum and Ruffalo bulked up for their roles and it was needed as the physicality of it all was so necessary, not only between the two brothers but between DuPont and Mark as they both looked for what they thought they needed in each other. Tatum gave us a glimpse at a fractured soul and was excellent in the film, while Ruffalo was equally as important playing the emotionally stable one in the family, essentially being the straight man to it all and it easily ranks as some of the best work that he has ever done.
There is no question that “Foxcatcher” is worthy of all the awards talk that surrounds it, you can’t help but feel like it was truly close to being something even greater then everyone involved in it could have imagined.
4 out of 5 stars.
“Foxcatcher” is now open in Toronto and Vancouver and opens in Montreal on December 19th while rolling out in other cities in Canada throughout the winter.