Though it expanded its release on Dec. 19, 2014, “Foxcatcher” is showing in a limited amount of theatres across the U.S. Tonally, most audiences will find “Foxcatcher” off-putting with its bleak presentation and slow pacing, but director Bennett Miller earns gold for painting the grim reality to this true crime shocker.
Even after winning gold at the 1984 Olympic Games, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) doesn’t receive the acknowledgement or attention he deserves. Throughout his life, he has lived in his brother Dave’s (Mark Ruffalo) shadow, so when he receives an invitation from John du Pont (Steve Carell), from one of the wealthiest families in America, to train for the next Olympics at the private facility John built on his home property, Mark eagerly accepts and is excessively grateful for the praise and opportunity. As John and Mark begin to form an unhealthy bond based on their mutual loneliness and lack of respect, John guides Mark into excessively drinking and doing cocaine. When John betrays Mark by inviting Dave and his family to their training facility, too, Mark’s hurt is palpable and severs his trust in both John and Dave. However, Dave understands Mark and knows how to help him, an observance that makes John jealous. Du Pont pursues greatness that he can buy, but Dave refuses to give him that.
Oscar-nominated director Bennett Miller (“Capote”) and screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman form a stark story with few explanations; beginning the tale just a couple of days before Mark meets du Pont, leaving out du Pont’s history, “Foxcatcher” is about the bond between Mark and John. The film doesn’t even mention du Pont’s insanity plea, therefore refusing to legitimize it and believably making du Pont’s act of violence at the end truly shocking. The movie is so dark that you can’t even laugh at the ridiculousness of du Pont, of his attempts at being “one of the guys” and giving himself the nickname “Golden Eagle.”
Frye and Futterman weave together a subtle film driven by character dynamic and reactions rather than large monologues of justification. By doing this, the three main actors express their characters bodily and with their facial expressions more than narration, allowing them to truly become the roles and give amazing performances. Du Pont evokes a touch of Norman Bates (including a love of stuffed birds and Mommy issues), but it’s Carell’s performance that truly marks his distance and lack of connection with the world and those near him; he’s an isolated person far removed from the world.
When reviewing the film as a whole, it seems to suggest that du Pont attacked Dave because of his refusal to cater to him. As Mark says, “You can’t buy Dave.” But there is so much more to the film and his motivations. Isolation is just as much a villain as the privilege of wealth. Miller tackles class and family but refuses to point one finger.
“Foxcatcher” is a masterful film from Miller. Its slow pacing deters some audiences, but the slowness emphasizes the length of the seclusion (that Mark lived in a whole other world at Foxcatcher Farm with du Pont) and heightens the vastness of du Pont’s pathetic, inaccessible existence. It makes clear that John is a small man pretending in a large life.
Rating for “Foxcatcher:” A+
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“Foxcatcher” is playing at three theatres in Columbus: Drexel, Gateway, and AMC Lennox. For showtimes, click here.