Film Review: Foxcatcher

FCDirected by Bennett Miller

Starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carell & Mark Ruffalo

We’re all familiar with films revolving around enlightened characters helping the underprivileged from their plight in order to reach their goal, whether it be getting good grades or winning the school championship. Many are based on fictional characters. However, what if all of these familiar conventions were turned on their head?

Foxcatcher tells the true story of Mark Schultz (Tatum), an Olympic Gold Medal winner who  feels overshadowed by his supportive brother Dave (Ruffalo) who receives more accolades for his wrestling leadership and achievements. Mark is requested by a mysterious millionaire John Du Pont (Carell) to leave home and move to his estate and train for the 1988 Olympics. Mark agrees and tries to persuade Dave to do the same thing who refuses due to his family commitments. As coaching begins, Du Pont starts to show his darker side and influences Mark for the worse making him self-destructive and more distant from his loved ones. This becomes a major concern for his loving brother Dave which all builds up to a disturbing end for everybody involved.

“I said $25,000. It was the biggest number I could think of” is one of the most telling and revealing lines of Foxcatcher. Initially one may believe this is due to the fact that it informs the viewer of Schultz’s intelligence. However, it shows how sadly oblivious he is to the world he is about to enter. His limits may restrict him in life but due to his naturally good-natured heart they also protect him from people like Du Pont that pray on his success in order to manipulate him. Although Du Pont is the father figure that Schultz has been searching for all these years he also makes up for bringing out the darker vulnerable side of Schultz by being present in his life and providing but emotionally distant and a constant reminder of his disappointments.

This is also why silence, as opposed to dialogue, is just as much a character in the film as others where many speak in a slow, subtle tone. Director Bennett Miller (Moneyball) uses awkward silences effectively at specific moments of to evoke emotions of concern and sometimes emptiness characters feel towards one another. In one of the more comical yet somber scenes, Du Pont’s snobbish unwell mother Jean Du Pont (Vanessa Redgrave), who looks down upon him for the profession he chose to pursue, appears unannounced at a training session. Du Pont readily makes himself out to be the principal coach by taking over the duties. As John struggles to keep up the basic front of impersonating a coach, swiftly running out of breath and ideas, mother Du Pont simply sits still without saying a word looking right through her son’s transparent soul as if he is not there.

Tatum stomps around in a vulnerable, sulking manner with an emotionless face throughout the whole duration. However, his mental state is still apparent due to his animalistic movements. Tatum is both restrained yet physical. Carell in his first dramatic role excels beyond expectations and perfectly captures Du Pont’s creepy unsettling persona while portraying traits of that reflect those of his prey Foxcatcher may prove to be too emotionally draining for some, but it remains one of the best dramas in recent years.

4/5

 

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