Foxcatcher (2014)

I wasn't entirely sure what to expect when I watched this. I knew it was a true story, but I had zero previous knowledge of the events. I knew Steve Carell was taking on his most serious role, and wasn't sure how I felt about that. I knew Channing Tatum was trying to expand beyond his "hunk" roles, but still playing a meathead, so I wasn't sure what he would bring. I went in with an open mind, and left with a good amount of surprise.

Before the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Dave and Mark Schultz were dominant forces in the world of Olympic wrestling. Each had won gold medals in 1984, but Mark feels overshadowed by Dave. Mark's depression makes him a perfect mark to be molded by John E. DuPont, a member of what then was the richest family in America. DuPont is a wrestling enthusiast, and approaches Mark to help him start a private wrestling academy to prepare for the Olympics. Despite DuPont's odd behavior, Mark accepts and recruits Dave to join him.

The two build a team and prepare for the Games. Dave gradually takes the place of Mark as the leader, and it re-triggers Mark's depression and anger and resentment. The continued strange actions of DuPont only serve to put a deeper wedge between everyone. Mark finally turns his back on DuPont, leaving Dave behind to train. DuPont's mental state erodes completely, and the ending is explosive. Since it's a true story that is twenty years old, I don't think it's totally necessary to warn of a spoiler alert, but conversely I had never heard of this story until the movie came out, so I'll resist giving it away.

Carell was a bit of an oddity for me; at times I felt like I was watching Steve Carell try to be serious, other times it seemed he really lost himself in the character, and other times I was just distracted by his nose-and-teeth makeup. I had to do an image search on John DuPont to see if his nose was in fact as massive as the prosthetic Carell wore; surprisingly it was. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo were both great. Tatum was able to really hit the marks of depression and anger well. Ruffalo was his usual excellent self, giving the heart needed to bring compassion. I was also impressed that both guys were able to look like wrestlers. I knew some of the guys who wrestled when I was in high school, and they just had a different look than anyone. They weren't huge bodybuilders, they weren't lean swimmers, it was a balance of strength and speed. Ruffalo and Tatum nailed the body, the flexibility, even the way they walked.

The beginning of this movie bored the hell out of me. It was slow, it was quiet, there were plenty of moments that featured neither dialogue nor musical score, just the hushed sounds of natural ambiance. The initial boredom, though, seemed to serve a purpose, setting a bleak tone for the rest. Director Bennett Miller used a very restrained vision, keeping the shots steady and smooth. The movie was nominated for Best Director, Best Actor (Carell) and Best Supporting Actor (Ruffalo), and although they were shut out in the end, I don't think I would have taken issue with any of them winning.

 

 

 

On the [Celluloid Hero] scale, "Foxcatcher" gets a 6 out of 10.