So we have wrestling fan and billionaire John Du Pont (Steve Carell) taking recent Olympic gold medallist but quickly forgotten Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and getting him to lead a team of wrestlers into the next World Championships/Olympics from his Team Foxcatcher training facility on the Du Pont Family estate. Brother & fellow gold winner Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) features prominently in Marks life as mentor/coach/person casting big ass shadow over Mark. The story follows Du Pont getting the team together, convincing Dave to come to Foxcatcher facility and seeing Mark caught in the middle trying to establish himself as his own man while dealing with the ups and downs of his new mentor Du Pont introducing him to a life of drink/drugs. Then watching it all slowly contribute to the tragedy that unfolds.
There’s a lot to like about this movie
For one thing the character acting is superb. Carell, Tatum & Ruffallo should all be up for awards. Du Pont’s creepy mannerisms and leering nature made Carrel almost unrecognisable. Watching the billionaire fanatic lose control slowly whilst always living with the disappointment of mother dearest was creepy and effective. Tatum gives a complete look into Schultz who at his core is portrayed as very simplistic and almost neanderthalic. He knows what he wants and doesn’t want and there is a real visual sense of him struggling to deal with the latter. Mark Ruffalo doesn’t actually do anything spectacular except make the character his own. You can feel a real genuine brotherly love and tenderness towards his family despite the tug of war between him and Du Pont.
Even though the acting is strong there was something off about the story telling for me. I found there were key moments that due to the way it was shot weren’t explained properly. One moment opted for a muted encounter between 2 characters to build tension where I felt dialogue would have been more effective, and then there was just information left out. It could be because it’s a tale of non fiction that they might not actually know the reasons and if this the case I think a clever use of inference is needed, especially as they did so to describe the mildly homo-erotic nature of Du Pont/Mark at one point.
It was shot in a visually interesting way (lots of landscape/wide shots contrasted with extreme close up of individual character reactions) whilst using a minimalistic score to really amp up the creepy awkwardness of Du Pont as well as give the viewer a raw look at the emotions being portrayed without being lead there with the use of sound.
The climax felt a little rushed given the amount of devoted time to emotional set up of the characters. There was no one point where you can say… ‘yep, that’s why he did that’, but otherwise not a whole lot to criticise.
It also turns out the reasons Mark Schultz chastised director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) after release were for it’s inaccuracies and presumed take on the homo-erotic nature of some parts of Mark & Du Pont’s relationship. Understandable as it is his life and story up on screen but in Hollywood liberties are taken for the sake of $$$, it’s very naïve to think otherwise. To see one report of the contrasting stories, click here.
Excellent acting performances by Carell, Tatum, Ruffalo, not necessary let down by the story telling but I don’t think it was as effective as it could have been. Not a whole lot of bad things to say about the film, but not anything that really grabs me to rave about it either.