Foxcatcher

foxcatcher-movie-poster

Release: Friday, November 14, 2014 (limited)

[Theater]

Written by: E. Max Frye; Dan Futterman 

Directed by: Bennett Miller

Enigmas like paranoid-schizophrenic John Eleuthère du Pont prove it was prudent for both Steve Carell and the Americanized The Office to bid adieu to one another. Of course, that transition was as much a matter of inevitability as the tragedy we traipse toward in Foxcatcher, but a fog of doubt descended quickly in the wake of the departure of one of prime time television’s most ridiculous characters. What comes next? What do you hope to achieve, Michael Scott?

Obviously the answer ‘to be the best in the world’ won’t suffice. In this grim and isolated setting Carell has a funny way of suggesting that this has actually been the goal for some time now. At the very least, there brims beneath a haggard physique this desire to be taken more seriously; that’s if taking next year’s Oscars by storm is out of the question.

Carell hooks up with New York native Bennett Miller (whose directorial CV includes 2005’s Capote and 2011’s Moneyball) along with the incredibly versatile Mark Ruffalo and an ever-more watchable Channing Tatum on the set of the inauspicious Liseter Hall Farm — some 200 acres of land acquired and later expanded upon by the wealthy Du Pont family, a prominent American clan built primarily upon the manufacturing of gunpowder. To say Carell portrays the mentally disturbed, socially repressed heir to the Du Pont family fortune would be a criminal understatement. Carell keeps the beak (okay so it’s exaggerated a bit) but dispenses with the comedic charade and his warmth as a basically decent human being. It’s in the way he slowly, deliberately breathes and speaks in an entirely unnatural cadence that defines this as a tour-de-force performance you won’t want to miss.

Meanwhile, Mark (Tatum) and David (Ruffalo) Schultz are accomplished wrestlers, both having won Gold medals in the 1984 Olympics in Seoul, although older brother David is the vastly more celebrated athlete. You’ll have a difficult time recognizing Tatum in this fragile, downbeat portrayal of a younger brother trying anything to make his life work for him. He’s categorically not the same actor I was introduced to in 21 Jump Street. Ruffalo effects a gentle soul whose family life trumps what he does for a living. Though his stoutness suggests he won’t ever be taken down easily, his willingness to abandon psychological sanctuary for the opportunity to rise to the top once more just isn’t present. It is in Mark.

Miller’s uncompromising vision requires everyone to dig deeper than they have ever before. Even Vanessa Redgrave, who plays matriarchal Jean du Pont and gets all of three lines to speak. For at the heart of Foxcatcher exists a profoundly troubled mother-son relationship; whereas Jean has prided herself on a tradition of equestrian excellence — Foxcatcher Farm is a thoroughbred racing stable after all — her son wishes to coach and inspire a group of young men into Olympic training and medal contention.

John’s desperation to be validated by his own blood yields his cruel treatment of two athletes he essentially stalks and coerces into a game of psychological abuse and manipulation. He says he would love to see America soar once again — this trio of the Schultz brothers and Coach du Pont would surely be a force to be reckoned with even during the Olympic trials — but what he really means is that he would love to see his mother smile at him. Just once. A pat on the back could go a long way. But Jean declares the sport to be ‘low,’ and something she wishes to not even recognize, lest it be the downfall of the Du Pont legacy. The irony is seated before her during one of the film’s more revealing scenes.

Regrettably Sienna Miller, as David’s wife Nancy, and Anthony Michael Hall feel a tad underused, though they aren’t the centerpiece. The moral of this story: Tatum and Ruffalo are heartbreakingly good. They unquestionably appreciate the significance of whom they represent here. They’re two of the most decorated wrestlers in history, winning more NCAA, U.S. Open, World and Olympic titles than any other American brother duo who took to the floor. The circumstances are ripe for tragedy. Miller certainly capitalizes, creating a quiet, slow-burning thriller that refuses to compromise intensity for Hollywood glitz and glam. There aren’t too many films out right now that will make you feel quite as uncomfortable with such little violence or bloodshed depicted.

Credit that to the fact that this all actually took place. Now that’s a chilling thought.

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4-5Recommendation: Foxcatcher is a harrowing experience that deserves a much wider release than it has received. A slow roll-out of one of the best-acted dramas of 2014 is just not the way this beauty of a film should have been treated yo. Of course, I ain’t got no say in the matter. But if we could scrap, like 1,000 screenings of that stupid The Interview flick and replace it with something much more substantial and meaningful, you won’t find me complaining. I don’t think I need to mention performances anymore here, so rather what I’d recommend is checking this one out for a solid — if slightly contrived — recounting of an American Dream shattered.

Rated: R

Running Time: 134 mins.

Quoted: “A coach is a father. A coach is a mentor. A coach has great power on an athlete’s life.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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47 thoughts on “Foxcatcher

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  3. Yeah. I really need to see this one, huh? Lol. Sounds really fantastic, Tom. I’m thrilled to see Carell and Ruffalo doing so well, and I’m happy to see Tatum breaking his usual mold, too! I always said I hate him in dramas and love him in comedies, but maybe seeing this one will change my mind. Great work!

  4. Tom! Sorry I’ve not been by in ages. 😦 I’m going to be annoying now & skip around & read your reviews of things I’ve seen. 🙂 I was surprised by how much I liked this movie considering I don’t exactly like wrestling. I had no idea how it would end as I didn’t know the true story. EXCELLENT performances from everyone. Really glad I decided to watch this. Great review. As always. 🙂

    • Hahaha no worries at all! 🙂 I intend to do something similar to your site. Be prepared. . ..

      You make a good point about the sports angle not being that attractive to you, because it wasn’t to me either. I have to say I don’t understand competitive wrestling at all. And yet I was transfixed by how Bennett Miller not only made the sport interesting but intense as hell. Of course, this movie was so much more than just the competition. The surrounding environment was really what got me. And Steve Carell was just haunting.

      Thanks so much for the kind words. Appreciate it. 😀

  5. Fine work, me old chum! This was an outstanding flick. Wasn’t sure I would like it as much as the critics said but I did. I was gripped throughout and the three leads were simply superb! I was actually taken aback by them all.

    • Weren’t the triage simply absurdly good?! The atmosphere was crushing as well, which I really appreciated, but it surely was an acting showcase. I hope Carell gets to walk up on that stage in a couple of weeks, but I have this feeling he’ll get overruled by someone else.

      Sorry for overlooking the comment man, I’m all over the place today. . . . lol

  6. I am pretty sure I am gonna be floored by this movie. Cannot wait to finally see this. Thanks for the review. Nice work man!

      • Watched it last weekend. Watched Whiplash and Birdman too. All very unique and well done pictures. I think Whiplash was the best one imo with Birdman a close second.

  7. Wow, a perfect score! I gave this a 4/5 as it’s one of those films that whilst it’s excellently executed and have great performances, it’s just too somber to be enjoyable for me. That might explain the low box office take.

    • I think it certainly does Ruth. 🙂 It’s a heavy, heavy film to get through. I truthfully had some concerns during the opening half hour as it was so quiet. This was one I actually got to see with my whole family during the Xmas holidays, and it was tough keeping my dad awake through it! Hahah. Once he gets into a dark room with comfy seats its quite a job convincing him to keep his eyes awake. 😉

    • Hell yeah man, you hopefully shall be rewarded for your patience; I found this story to be supremely confident and very very well-established. And the performances sort of speak for themselves. It will likely do well in getting nom’s, not sure about wins, but here’s to hoping for that, too! Happy New Year dude !

    • You’re 100% right; there are hardly any traces of Michael Scott (his second-greatest character, if you were to ask me 😉 ) in this role. His John du Pont is positively unnerving. What a movie this was. . .

  8. I saw Foxcatcher last weekend and loved it, though the penultimate scene is easily the scariest/most disturbing moment in cinematic 2014 and not just because I love Ruffalo. Carell was the best in the show for me, so good. btw The Interview is actually really funny and it’s kinda important it gets the screenings.

      • Important for sure! No government should ever be able to declare what forms of self-expression are viewable and what are not. America is not a dictatorship. N. Korea unfortunately is, and for them to reach out and try and ban something is plain ridiculous. Although in recent days its becoming questionable what kind of input the Koren government really had in hacking Sony and banning the film. You know for sure the film will not be screened in Korea (and now possibly Russia given Putin’s supposed empathy towards Kim Jong-Un.)

      • Yes, important. Even Franco and Rogen haters can’t deny that this film is not the symbol of freedom of expression. It’s not about the content anymore, it’s about the freredom to screen it, freedom to view it and freedom to make a movie like that to begin with.

    • You’re right Sati, that scene is absolutely harrowing. I really didn’t “like” it; I appreciated it but it was pretty horrible. Crazy how this went down in real life. And I’m not sure if this is verifiable or not, but a friend of mine told me he read somewhere the glasses that Mark Ruffalo wore for the role were the actual glasses the real Dave Schultz wore. That’s pretty. . .interesting (if it is indeed true).

  9. Great read Tom, and my desire to see this has just increased as a result. Jan 9th for us, I think, and I will be there to see it that evening.

  10. Top work Tom. So happy reading your positive review, I’ve been waiting to see Foxcatcher for a long time now! (Typical wrestling fan, eh?) Sadly, we don’t get it until early January!

    Adam.

    • Despite me not following wrestling, I was thoroughly compelled with the attention to detail here. I am more interested in competitive wrestling just on the basis of how ‘Foxcatcher’ captures that obsessive state of mind that must be all-too-easy to access when you’re battling for the top prize.

      Oh man, I can’t get over this one man. This film has a good shot of remaining on my Top 8 Tastiest Films of the Year on my End-of-Year Awards ceremony! (What a legit post!!) 😉

        • Cheers dude! 😀 Carell looks and IS utterly terrifying. What an accomplishment for a man whom the world thought was simply a comedian.

  11. The cast is very good here and make this worth watching. Everything else is very dark, chilly, and downright disturbing, to say the least. Good review Tom.

    • The cast was unbelievable man, wasn’t it? I said somewhere earlier that despite how small a group of people it was that made this thing what it was, it may well be one of my favorite casts of the year. Carell is mind-blowing. As are Ruffalo and Tatum. Such a good movie.

    • Cheers!! ‘Foxcatcher’ is going to sit proudly up there with my favorites of the year. I’m certain of it. It is fantastic.

  12. I am a bit surprised Foxcatcher didn’t “catch” fire with audiences like I expected. This just might make my Top 10 for 2014. It’s extremely well acted. Looks like it might make yours as well given that score. 🙂

    • Cheers Mark. Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and all!

      I think this movie is a substantially heavy film for a lot of mainstream crowds. I have to be honest, during the opening 20ish minutes I was a tad concerned about its slow, deliberate pacing but after awhile I started really appreciating that slow burn. I think that part might be putting some people off. But what a trio of performances we have on our hands here. I really hope to see Carell nominated. I doubt he’ll take home the prize, but it’ll be great to see him in the running.

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