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Foxcatcher

December 11, 2014

Foxcatcher (***) Rated R

Foxcatcher is director Bennett Miller’s first film since the critically lauded Moneyball and as such is just as meticulously crafted as that earlier film. And that’s also part of the problem. Foxcatcher is so perfectly structured and constructed by Miller and his screenwriting, co-conspirators, Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, that the film comes off as feeling a bit stiff at times. It doesn’t help that the film is so quiet and meticulously paced as well, and that the slow buildup actually works against the film more often than not. For a crime drama Foxcatcher is probably the most restrained cinematic portrayal of an actual headline making incident that you’re likely to find.

Foxcatcher is mostly a showcase for the otherworldly performances of its perfectly chosen cast, some of whom have rarely been given the chance to shine the way they do in this film. By now, it’s common knowledge that Steve Carrell, nearly unrecognizable with liver spots and a prosthetic nose, is virtually an Oscar shoo-in for his performance in the role of John du Pont but there are other revelations in the cast. Channing Tatum is chief among them, who with the exception of his layered performance in last year’s Magic Mike, has rarely been given the opportunity to exercise his acting chops as he does here. In the role of small town wrestler Mark Schultz, Tatum offers a nuanced and sympathetic performance that will hopefully get Oscar voter’s attention as well.

Sienna Miller and Mark Ruffalo, as Schultz’s brother and wife respectively, also turn in splendid work during the course of the film, as does Vanessa Redgrave as the matriarch of the du Pont family.

Foxcatcher: Channing Tatum & Steve Carrell

I suppose the less one knows about the real life events that the film is based on, the better. The incidents that the film’s story attempts to tell took place in the 1990s. Most of today’s movie going audience will have little to no knowledge of the real story which will only serve to heighten the tension during the film’s final act. The element of surprise is essential here.

For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, John du Pont (Carrell); came up with the idea of forming a wrestling team named after the Foxcatcher horse farms, which the du Pont family owned. In order to ensure that his team would be the best, du Pont recruited wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum); brother of celebrated wrestler Dave Schultz (Ruffalo). Mark, desperately longing to escape the dark of his brother’s sizeable shadow, immediately jumps at the chance. It isn’t long before du Pont convinces Mark to recruit his brother for the team. Dave isn’t too keen on the idea of uprooting his family but eventually caves to the idea, leading to dire consequences for all involved.

The real story of the Foxcatcher wrestling team is compelling material for sure, but Miller’s decision to keep the film so low-key sinks the proceedings for me. I can’t help but wonder what a much better film Foxcatcher would have been with a less lumbering pace. As it stands, it’s an interesting, if flawed, result.

Foxcatcher has not yet opened in this area.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at filmfan1970@hotmail.com.

 

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