I’ve been anticipating the release of Foxcatcher for a couple of years now. The film was scheduled to be released during this weekend last year, but was delayed because director Bennett Miller didn’t have enough time in editing the film that he wanted. Cut to a year later with the film having been released in November in New York and L.A. before expanding to Austin this weekend. I’ve been really looking forward to this film because it was Bennett Miller’s follow-up to the brilliant 2011 film Moneyball, which I can now say is one of my favorite films, period. This was also the first time that we will see Steve Carell play a character that’s as dark and unfunny as you can think of in John du Pont, the last heir in the du Pont family. The film has received rave reviews ever since debuting at Cannes in May, and the film was just nominated for 3 Golden Globes, including Best Picture. I just saw Foxcatcher, and here’s the review.
Foxcatcher’s primary character focus is on Mark Schultz, played by Channing Tatum, an Olympic gold medalist who has lived and continues to live his life in the shadow of his older brother Dave, played by Mark Ruffalo. In 1987, Mark gets a call from John du Pont, played by Carell, who asks Mark to be apart of his Foxcatcher wrestling team on the farm of the same name, which he envisions to be the training facility to house the 1988 Olympic Wrestling team. Mark agrees, and begins his training at the Foxcatcher farm. Throughout the film, we see Mark spiral out of control, both mentally and physically, as the demands of du Pont can be quite taxing at times. All of this comes crashing down in the end with a bang. This story is based on a true story but I won’t give anything away about what happens.
Miller directs a script by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, with Futterman previously collaborating with Miller on his 2005 film Capote. One of the best parts about Foxcatcher may be one of the biggest turn offs to a lot of people. Foxcatcher is a slow burner of a film, with the tension building up very slowly throughout the films over two-hour runtime. Many may find this to be very mundane, but I that’s the last thing that I would say about Foxcatcher. Director Bennett Miller has crafted a truly original and sadistic true crime story that deals with the themes of power, lust, the American Dream, deception, brotherhood, and so many more. I couldn’t take my eyes off of the screen during the entire film, and even the most quiet parts in a very quiet and slow-moving film felt intense and nail-biting at times.
I read that Miller made sure that the films set felt chilly and quiet, and required that Carell not speak with other cast members during the film shoot, as well as other cast members. This shows throughout the films run time, as the film always feels very chilly and uneasy with every scene. The most unease that you feel watching this film is whenever Steve Carell is on-screen. I’ve been saying in my past reviews that I wasn’t going to call the Best Actor race with every performance yet because I hadn’t seen Foxcatcher, and I can now understand why. Carell gives a performance that will define the actor as much more than the lovable idiot from The Office. Steve Carell is no longer just a comedic actor, he’s an actor that is capable of the most calculating and nuanced performance of 2014. du Pont was a very complex and complicated individual, so if you’re going into this film expecting to understand every little detail as to why du Pont is the way he is, then you’ll be disappointed. But if you go into the film, expecting to see a brilliant performance of a very quiet and subtly larger than life character, then your expectations will be met.
Channing Tatum also deserves as much acclaim as Carell is getting from many of these organizations. I’ve begun to warm up to Tatum throughout the years, primarily after seeing his work in 21 Jump Street and Magic Mike. Tatum, like Carell, brings a level of complexity to the brutting and envious meat-head of Mark Schultz in one of the finest performances of the year. Although it looks unlikely that Tatum will get the amount of awards attention that Carell and Ruffalo will get, I will make sure that Tatum gets some recognition at the MTWJS Awards early next year (the date is TBA. Tuxedos and dresses won’t be necessary). Speaking of Ruffalo, the legendary character actor also does some of his very best work as Dave Schultz in the film. Unlike Carell and Tatum, Ruffalo’s Dave is probably the most positive and uplifting part of a film that’s far from it. Dave is a family man, with a wife played in a small role by Sienna Miller and two children. Dave doesn’t really enter the Foxcatcher farm picture until late in the game because he puts his family first over going to the Olympics and other competitions. He also looks out for his younger brother who envies him day in and day out. It’s a great performance by a great actor.
I also love the very chilly and hauntingly beautiful cinematography by Greig Fraser, who frames and lights every shot with subtle beauty. From the muted colors of the Pennsylvania country side to the darkly lit practice and sporting facilities, it’s the kind of cinematography that makes a lot of Miller’s films look so good, with the director having previously worked with longtime Christopher Nolan collaborator Wally Pfister on Moneyball. I also love the beautiful and haunting score in the film by Rob Simonsen, who had worked on the soundtrack for Moneyball with Miller. The film features a lot of really beautiful and subtle piano ballads that are scattered around the film that add to it’s already chilly demeanor.
To sum it all up, I loved Foxcatcher, and it’s one of my favorite films of the year. Bennett Miller delivered a truly unique and dark drama about one of the darkest moments in contemporary sports history. Steve Carell deserves to win an Oscar, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo deserve to be nominated for Oscars, and hopefully the Academy will be smart enough to honor the rest of the magnificent things that I had listed above. If Foxcatcher is showing in your area, I highly recommend that you see the film if you can handle the slow pace and long running time like I did.