If sex sells, then there’s no reason for Foxcatcher to have made a dime. It’s filled with inherent contradictions to such a simple, popular and successful concept. A movie about Olympic Greco-Roman style wrestling? I’ll pass. Steve Carrell trying to be serious again? No thank you. Half-naked men in tights grabbing each other and rolling around on the floor? That’s definitely not for me. For whatever reason however, Foxcatcher is undeniably brilliant. It paces itself and runs so smoothly, keeping the story alive and kicking for the entire 130 minutes. Director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote) managed to make a film about Greco-Roman wrestling actually interesting, probably helped by the fact that the story is based on an exceptionally scandalous true story.
The basic story centres around the Schultz brothers, who won gold for the USA wrestling team at the 1984 Olympics. In preparation for the 1988 Seoul games, younger brother Mark (Channing Tatum) joins team Foxcatcher and trains at the du Pont esate. Everything’s hunky-dory, the wrestlers get state-of-the-art training and are well accommodated. Mark however becomes dependent on his new father figure John du Pont who, driven by hidden motives, slowly transforms from a supportive mentor into a crazed manipulator. John du Pont’s attentions are instead focused on the older Schultz brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) with tragic consequences. In a fantastic and very real twist, a narcotic-fuelled du Pont reneges on a cordial reconciliation of differences and produces a moment which comes at you so unexpectedly, much like every other aspect of this movie.
Steve Carrell, in his first dramatic role that’s actually worked, carries the film as the eccentric heir to a multi-billion inheritance and wrestling enthusiast John “Golden Eagle” du Pont. Carrell nails the neurotic tendencies and idiosyncrasies that were characteristic of the real life John du Pont. It’s disturbing, but in a good way. Further, Channing Tatum is splendid as Mark Schultz. To be honest, until now I have been supremely anti-Tatum; he’s never been more than a “flash-my-abs-make-the-girls-swoon” actor. Yet, he too nails such a serious role, flexing more than just his biceps for once – his acting credentials. Throw in a dash of Mark Ruffalo as the more confident, independent, senior Schultz brother, with a sterling performance, and you have a cast performing out of their spandex.
Foxcatcher garnered 5 Oscar Nominations, and with good reason. The design is meticulous, the acting is precise and the screenplay is thrilling. After finally seeing all five Best Actor nominees, without a doubt, Steve Carrell was robbed of his first and potentially only shot at the title belt. He was THAT good. Overall, Foxcatcher is weighty and unsettling at times. Yet, if you can hold on when things get icy and dark you’ll find yourself having watched one of the best films of the year.
DIRECTOR: BENNETT MILLER
STARRING: STEVE CARRELL, CHANNING TATUM, MARK RUFFALO