Saturday, October 11, 2014

“Foxcatcher”– Movie Review



To start off the final weekend of The New York Film Festival, I saw the drama “Foxcatcher”, starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. 


When an eccentric multi-millionaire hires a pair of Olympic Gold Medalist brothers to create and train an American wrestling team for the 1988 Olympics, the brothers soon find their sponsor’s erratic behavior to be a distraction – but will it also endanger their lives?


Mark Schultz (Tatum) should be proud of the Olympic Gold Medal he and his older brother David (Ruffalo) won as wrestlers at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles.  But what troubles Mark is the fact that he can’t seem to figure out a way to get out from the large shadow his brother casts.  One day, he gets a telephone call that will change his life forever; a multi-millionaire wants to hire Mark to train a team of wrestlers to compete in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea.  Seeing this as his big opportunity, Mark immediately accepts the job offer from John du Pont (Carell) and moves to the sprawling du Pont estate known as Foxcatcher. 

Once there, Mark starts seeing signs that he may have made a huge mistake.  For one thing, du Pont’s deportment grows weirder by the day; not wanting to ruin what otherwise seems like a pretty good arrangement, Mark chooses to ignore du Pont’s eccentricities for as long as he possibly can.  During this time, they initially seem to become close friends, but du Pont’s sudden personality changes eventually ruin both their personal and professional relationship; when du Pont finally loses confidence in Mark’s abilities, he hires David to coach his wrestlers, leaving Mark both humiliated and infuriated. 

While David shows he’s able to successfully build and train a team of wrestlers, du Pont really wants to take all of the credit for himself, mostly to impress his mother (Vanessa Redgrave), who apparently doesn’t think much of her oddball son.  Once the Olympics are over, du Pont goes out of his way to make Mark feel unwelcome, so he winds up moving out.  With David and his family remaining at Foxcatcher, du Pont’s demeanor takes a decided turn for the worse, becoming disturbingly paranoid in the midst of his own irrelevance.  But should David and his family fear for their well-being amidst all of du Pont’s craziness?


Creepy is a word that doesn’t even begin to describe “Foxcatcher” – likewise, it is both inadequate and insufficient for the accolades of its star, Steve Carell.  In all of his make-up, Carell is almost unrecognizable – upon initial glimpse, you have to actually squint a bit just to make sure it’s really him.  But be sure, Carell does not let his prosthetics do the acting here – his mannerisms, his speech, all of his body language capture the sociopathic du Pont making this film scary from the first time you see him on screen; “Foxcatcher” comes closer to being a horror movie than most horror movies do.

Don’t be misled by the characterization of a horror movie – much of the credit to its success in this regard must be given to the director of “Foxcatcher”, Bennett Miller, who lays it out before us in a very Spartan, understated style that totally works for a story that is based on true events.  From the moment that the character of Mark arrives at Foxcatcher, there is an impending sense of foreboding, raising overall questions about whether or not things will end well.  Perhaps the scariest part of this story remains the fact that it’s all too believable and that it really did happen. 

Other members of the cast – namely, Tatum and Ruffalo – are excellent here; Redgrave, unfortunately, has a small part and as a result, doesn’t have very many scenes in “Foxcatcher”.  If there is a mistake in this film, it could be that relationship; clearly, du Pont had issues with his mother, but this is never fully explored or explained in “Foxcatcher”.  Allusions to their problems are definitely made, but where and how it developed remains a mystery; perhaps, for the sake of brevity, it may be better that the movie never went down that road – but it would be a compelling story on its own. 

Foxcatcher (2014) on IMDb

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