Directed by Bennett Miller.
Starring Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave and Sienna Miller.
Olympic wrestlers Mark and David Schultz are taken under the wing of multimillionaire sponsor John E Du Pont as they train for the 1988 Olympics.
There is a lot right with Foxcatcher and a lot wrong with it. Directed by Bennett Miller it charts the destructive relationship that millionaire John E Du Pont (Carrell) had with Olympic wrestling brothers Mark (Tatum) and David (Ruffalo). This true story is a fascinating one and it’s an interesting story of brotherly love, betrayal and insecurity with some truly astonishing performances by the main 3 men. Although elements of the truth have been given a Hollywood edge – the ending of the film does not line up with the actual events and the real life Mark Schultz has recently condemned Miller’s view of events – it does make it an intriguing film.
Foxcatcher’s main fault however, lies within its pacing. The first hour drags on and although there are moments of brilliance – Du Pont discussing how his friends call him Golden Eagle, Mark’s evident self-loathing as he integrates into the Foxcatcher team– it can’t detract from the fact that the first hour is extremely dull. Shots of wrestling matches although important to the plot and to give the film a time frame, doesn’t make for interesting viewing.
Foxcatcher’s second half is a brilliant piece of film making. As we watch Mark start to unravel and Du Pont to descend into the madness that made headline news in 1996. It is the performances of its male starts that make the film. Steve Carrell has flirted with serious acting before in Little Miss Sunshine, but as John E Du Pont he is unrecognisable under heaps of prosthetics and a fake nose that is sure to garner him an Oscar nomination. He is creepy, clearly devoid of registering emotion and his manipulation of Mark is what drives the film forward. Tatum as well proves that he’s more than an action and comedy actor. As Mark Schultz he lumbers around, embodying his self-loathing perfectly until an explosive scene where he begins to smash his face into a mirror. There is an intensity to his performance that we’ve not seen before. Finally Mark Ruffallo as Dave Schultz provides solid support. He is the anti-Mark, he is open, loving, a good father and has perspective on his career and life. He is the only male of the three to show genuine affection and his scenes with Tatum bring the brotherly bond to life. Wrestling is a contact sport and yet all the men in this film will physically touch each other, but they’re too damaged to open up emotionally.
The female cast however, are completely overlooked. Vanessa Redgrave as Du Pont’s mother is given a handful of lines and what would have been an interesting relationship to explore is merely thrown in at the last minute. Sienna Miller as Dave’s wife Nancy may as well not even be there. She speaks a few lines and is in the background of a couple of shots and that’s it. Although this is a film about male connection, it’s a shame that these two actresses weren’t given any material to work with. In the short time she’s on screen Vanessa Redgrave is electrifying to watch and to have her character seemingly discarded makes you feel as if you’ve been cheated out of part of the story.
Foxcatcher isn’t the masterpiece that everyone has been hailing it to be. There are revelatory performances from Carrell and Tatum and Ruffalo is as solid as always; it just feels that there’s something missing. Instead of building the tension throughout, Miller instead has it simmering throughout so whilst the destruction of the relationship is interesting, it’s ultimately not gripping at all.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★
Helen Murdoch is a freelance writer – Follow me on Twitter