Foxcatcher (2014): The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher led by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul - a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.
2014’s official acting clinic of the Oscar season, Foxcatcher is an interesting movie. On the one hand, it features three incredible performances from Mark Ruffalo, Channing Tatum, and Steve Carell. However, on the other hand, the story to me really missed the mark. Bennett Miller and company definitely bit off more than they could chew when they condensed this story into 128 minutes. However the performances from these three great actors still make the movie worth seeing. So, let’s dive into it shall we?
Let’s talk about the acting. There are three phenomenal performances here from Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, and Steve Carell. It’s both impossible and unfair to these three actors for me to pick a least favorite, but I will say that the best performance of the three in my opinion was Steve Carell. Barely recognizable because of his extensive makeup, Carell is asked to do so much in the role of philanthropist John du Pont. But boy does he hit it out of the park. The very demeanor of du Pont is captured by Carell, from how he walks to even how he slouches when he sits. It’s a clinic on how to effectively immerse yourself into a character, and most certainly worth the price of admission alone. Likely the heavy favorite at this year’s Oscars for supporting actor, (if they actually put him in this category, which I think they should over lead) this is easily one of the best performances I’ve seen from an actor all year. And then there’s Ruffalo and Tatum. They were equally as amazing as the Scholz wrestling brothers, even though I did feel their chemistry as brothers could’ve been a bit better. But that’s just me being way too picky. Anyway, I will say that there are only a few other actors in this movie, and none of them really get much of anything to do here. This movie is essentially just Carell, Tatum, and Ruffalo.
And that’s kind of the biggest problem with this movie. It is way too big for its own good. It brings up so many things that could’ve practically been its own movie, and then doesn’t even resolve half of them. Far and away the biggest example of this is right around the middle of the movie involving Tatum’s character, Mark, and du Pont. It was a very quick scene that definitely implied something that the movie could not be less interested in talking about afterwards, despite the fact that it changes the whole dynamic of the whole movie. It’s one of those moments where, if you zone out for 30 seconds or go to the bathroom at a certain point, you’ll miss the most important moment of the whole movie that really should’ve been talked about more. To me this was a major oversight that might’ve occurred because, as one of my favorite movie critics Alonso Duralde pointed out, the real Mark Scholz (Tatum’s character) was a producer for this movie. It is very likely that he didn’t want this dynamic between him and du Pont investigated any further than it had to be, even if it ultimately defined the entire friendship. Also it’s harder than you think to talk about specific points of these stories without actually spoiling anything. That’s my best shot at it. But there were also other points that were brought up, like the fact that at one point Tatum’s character lost 12 pounds in 90 minutes (which isn’t really a spoiler cause it’s not a major plot point in the movie, just an ‘oh by the way’ type of moment) that really should’ve been delved into further than they actually were. I mean, is it even physically possible to lose that much weight in that short a period of time? How does a man push himself that much without passing out? Don’t look to find the answers to these questions and many others in this movie. I’d throw it into the Oscar bait category because it, much like The Theory of Everything, does everything it can to avoid talking about things that we might consider controversial. Lo and behold a movie attempting to make it to the Oscars should talk about something controversial!
Oh well. In terms of a wrestling story, this movie is above average. However the masterful acting is why this movie exists, and why you should go see it. I fully expect this movie receive several nominations from an acting standpoint, as well as a few other categories too. Just…don’t expect to learn as much from a based-on-a-true-story story as you should.
The Critique: What do you get when you mix spectacular acting with a mediocre story? A good movie. ‘Nuff said.
The Recommendation: If you want to agree with the Academy when they hand Steve Carell the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, go see this movie. Or if you care about wrestling. Otherwise, your time is better spent elsewhere.
Rewatchability: Moderately Low
The Verdict: 7/10 Good
Oscar Talk: Carell is the likely favorite to win Best Supporting Actor, however Ruffalo and Tatum deserve nominations as well. Also expect a nomination for Best Makeup for the work done on these actors.
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