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Saturday, September 23, 2023


‘Foxcatcher’ brings out best in actors

“Foxcatcher” is a meticulously crafted dark film that leaves you with an unsettling feeling by its close.
Unlike any film you’ll see in the theater this year, “Foxcatcher” takes its time unraveling its complex story and provides a wealth of information to the audience. Its story is also one of disparity, psychology, physicality, and the effects that humans can have on one another. The film boasts three of the strongest male performances of the year, with two coming as huge turns for the actor’s careers. I’m not in the “ ‘Foxcatcher’ is a masterpiece” camp, but it’s certainly one of the better films this year.
After winning a gold medal for wrestling in the Los Angeles Olympics, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) returns to a relatively quiet life, barely making it by on his own. Each day, he goes to train at a nearby university with his older brother and gold medalist, Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Dave has a wife (Sienna Miller) and kids, and is constantly surrounded by people, unlike Mark. A series of phone calls trouble Mark and eventually a man named Jack (Anthony Michael Hall) speaks and invites Mark to meet John du Pont (Steve Carell) at his Foxcatcher estates. Once there, Mark is invited to live and train on the grounds and forms an unusual bond with the mysterious du Pont.
Steve Carell leaves the jokes at home and dawns a prosthetic nose that only increases the level of creepiness and fright that his character’s stares evoke. Slow with his speech and unflinching with his eyes, Carell observes and responds to the characters and settings around him in the most calculated of ways. His deep-seeded familial issues and struggle to strive in a sport he’s no good at leaves him emotionally fragile and mentally unstable, posing a threat to anyone who disobeys him. The character is eerily brought to life by the brilliant Carell, who never misses a beat and finds his way into the the thoughts of his pupils and the audience.
Channing Tatum also reinvents himself as a dramatic leading actor, proving that he’s more than just a pretty face. His physical and emotional dedication to this role is unbelievable, as he adds so much extra depth and character to the wrestler living in his brother’s shadow.
Tatum’s understanding of and reaction to events and characters separates this work from everything else he’s done, and his chemistry withRuffalo is really something special. Ruffalo’s character Dave is not the obnoxious type most know him as, but instead a gentle and caring companion that loves Tatum’s character Mark. Yes, he’s bigger and better, but he never uses that against Mark and is in his corner every step of the way. Dave is the only one who ever stands up against du Pont, and in those instances, you’ll be holding on to your seat for dear life.


Courtesy of Sony Classics.

Director Bennett Miller has only directed three feature films thus far, with both “Capote” and “Moneyball” finding their way to Academy Award Nominations. With “Foxcatcher,” Miller ventures into his darkest territory yet, slowly building a story around three very different men. The film progresses in a somewhat unusual fashion, but it’s exhilarating as we get to watch Tatum and Ruffalo wrestle in real life. The focus on Foxcatcher farms, the history of the du Pont family, and the focus on John du Pont’s fascination with the Schultz brothers sets some freaky undertones, which gradually grow larger over time.
For a film stretching a little over two hours, Miller takes his time with this story and loses some steam in the middle. The initial set-up is slow, but interesting enough to carry us into the main events in the film. Accompanying the slow pace is a relatively quiet score that’s overcome by the little dialogue and long stares. There’s some analysis and exploration of du Pont’s character and his current state, but Miller chooses to focus more on the Schultz brothers, leaving many unanswered questions about what really went on. It’s obvious that du Pont isn’t completely sane, but it would have been nice to see more of what makes his character tick and to see more of how he affects his wrestlers.
This film doesn’t flow as well as it could have and would have benefited from more character study, but “Foxcatcher” is an extremely thrilling film which certainly leaves its mark in your mind.
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