Friday, November 21, 2014


In 1996, the unlikely partnership between eccentric Philadelphia millionaire coach John du Pont and two Olympic wrestlers would end in tragedy; a tragedy that would make headlines and become well-known across the country and in the sports community. Nearly 20 years later, the incident is all-but forgotten…until now; thanks to director Bennett Miller’s FOXCATCHER. 

Paranoid schizophrenic millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) invites Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to move to his estate to train. While Mark uses the opportunity to step out of the shadow of his more successful brother David (Mark Ruffalo), du Pont becomes determined to bring the two together. 

FOXCATCHER is the latest in the new age of sports films which is not very concerned with what happens on the field of battle. Much like Bennett Miller’s own MONEYBALL (2011), the film spends very little time on the wrestling mat, and instead makes the space between characters the true battlefield. FOXCATCHER is all about the dynamic relationship between du Pont and the two brothers and how they affect and use each other. In the early goings, Mark uses du Pont’s offer as an opportunity to be his own person and to not be mistaken for his older, more successful brother. In return, du Pont uses Mark and his new wrestling team as a way to achieve notoriety and fame…and to step out of the shadow of his disapproving mother. Things take a twist when du Pont lures David to the training facility (nicknamed Foxcatcher Farm) and Mark finds himself falling back into the role of the jealous, younger brother. 

There is a lot going in FOXCATCHER, and director Bennett Miller handles it all delicately and perfectly. His three main characters circle each other like a fox around a prey, only before striking they stick up for each other before the big betrayals. There is a constant atmosphere of dread hanging over the film, and it always feels like there is about to be something big slamming down right around the corner. Miller keeps us on the edge without pushing, and only shoves when absolutely necessary. 

Miller films everything in a bleak, almost hopeless-looking palette, which adds to the grimness of the film. His pacing is deliberately slow with no overabundances of blaring music or over-dramatic acting. There is dryness to the film thanks to the look and to the straightforward dialogue. It’s a very realistic take, and those looking for a rousing sports drama may walk away disappointed. 

With so much time being spent on the characters, it gives the cast more than enough time to prove themselves, and prove themselves they do. Steve Carell is absolutely mesmerizing as du Pont. His dead-eye stare is chilling and his death-like voice goes right through you. He is a main character, a villain, and a predator all at the same time and Carell just vanishes inside of it all. Channing Tatum doesn’t have to do a lot other than act like a lumbering meathead (which he does perfectly), but where he really deserves credit is in the physical performance with his body language and facial expressions…and he too vanishes inside the role while putting on the most impressive work of his young career. Mark Ruffalo is brilliant and nearly makes the film his own, while Vanessa Redgrave makes the most out of her limited screentime as du Pont’s mother. 

For those who are familiar with the story of John du Pont and the Schultz brothers, the ending is well-known…but can still be outright shocking thanks to a brilliant build-up. Bennett Miller has put together a strong and engaging character study in FOXCATCHER, one that hits close to home not only because of it being based on a true story, but because the characters are so real and so close to ourselves. It is raw and beautiful, simple on the surface yet complex underneath…and it will sneak up on you. 


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.