Review: 'Foxcatcher'


[vc_row][vc_column width="2/3"][vc_column_text disable_pattern="true" align="left" margin_bottom="0"] As my cohort noted in his review of The Theory of Everything, biopics are prone to awfulness. They try to pack a person’s existence into 120 minutes while also applying meaning to every instance. Major moments are foreshadowed with a forcefulness that doesn’t exist in reality; often times, doing so inadvertently pulls the curtain back and reminds us that we’re watching a movie. Most of them ape a formula that has worked in the past and will work in the future, but it’s easy for lesser entries in that genre to delve into triteness. Foxcatcher isn’t exactly a biopic; we aren’t treated to a full retelling of our protagonists’ lives, just a slice of time. But it does expertly convey a true story without any melodramatic fanfare, a style that will hopefully influence the next wave of cinematic biographers. When a filmmaker takes time to understand the movie he or she is trying to make, and the actors fully embody their characters, any need to rely on such tried-and-true devices is exposed as pure laziness. The latest and greatest in a string of well-made, real-life dramas from Bennett Miller (director of Moneyball and Capote), Foxcatcher tells the tale of millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell) and his time “coaching” wrestling champions Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) in the

1980s. Obsessed with wrestling and its place in reclaiming what he considers America’s lost glory, du Pont appears from out of nowhere to invite the Schultz brothers into his employ as their mentor. Dave declines due to family obligations, but Mark – seemingly adrift without his brother’s constant tutelage – embraces this new father figure. If you’ve seen the buzzed-about trailer, you know that Carell dives deep into a hunched-over, mouth-lightly-agape, hands-limply-extended du Pont; there’s a sadness and desperation that emanates from his pores. Desperate for companionship but unable to interact with humans, his du Pont is C. Montgomery Burns brought to life, without the cartoonish elements that lessened his horridness. In the first few scenes it feels like an impersonation that borders on parody, especially with a comedian in the role, but Carell’s commitment ends up being beyond reproach. There seems to be nothing but depraved negativity behind his eyes, and when that darkness is exposed it’s both unsurprising and startling. The bulk of the film examines du Pont’s interactions with the Schultz brothers; while Dave treats him like an eccentric employer, Mark throws himself into the man’s arms. At first, they seem made for each other: du Pont never had any friends he didn’t pay for, and Mark never had anyone but his brother. But Mark is too trusting, and du Pont too old and twisted, for their interactions to remain pristine. Mark, who opens the film smacking himself in the face just to feel something, dips back into destructive behavior, and Dave’s return to “save” his brother (at the behest of du Pont) only makes things worse. Tatum, still trying to shake his pretty-boy image, appears to be game for anything. It’s no surprise that he nails the intense wrestling scenes, but the moments where Mark melts down emotionally, or the depths of desperation in his face as he struggles for a way out of this situation he’s created, show the Jump Street star's full range for maybe the first time. Meanwhile, Ruffalo demonstrates once again why he’s maybe the most dependable actor in cinema today; beyond reassuring as the older brother-turned-father, he exudes the quiet confidence of a man who’s finally found his place in life. He's the glue that holds Mark together and the man du Pont wants to be; this makes him an enemy who threatens their bond, something Dave’s unshakeable demeanor won’t allow him to realize until it’s too late. Miller presents a surprisingly ambiguous account of what occurred between the younger Schultz and du Pont. It must’ve been quite tempting to portray the aging ornithologist, philatelist and philanthropist as a monster with no morals or qualms, but instead we see a quiet, sad man with mother issues and a nurtured inability to coexist with others. That, plus a mostly nonexistent score that leaves certain scenes bare and exposed, asks us to draw our own conclusions. Or, at the very least, not sensationalize the actions of a disturbed person beyond what they are: appalling, yes, but stemming from a place that we can at least attempt to understand. Foxcatcher methodically hits all the high notes of a captivating story while letting its actors fill in the gaps. There are no monologues, no laying out of the themes via passionate arguments between rivals. There are just three very different men who come together with very different intentions, and the horror that occurs when the most broken of them loses his grip on reality. [/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/3"]