Foxcatcher

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Director: Bennett Miller.
Screenplay: Dan Futterman, E. Max Frye.
Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Hall, Guy Boyd, Brett Rice, Jackson Frazer, Samara Lee.

“I’m gonna give you everything I have”.

After the likes of Capote and Moneyball it comes as no surprise that Bennett Miller has chosen yet another true story for his third feature film. With these films in mind, it also comes as no surprise that his ability to focus on an individuals obsession and determination is as intense as he’s proven already.

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John du Pont (Steve Carell) is an influential billionaire who takes it upon himself to restore American pride in the sport of Wrestling. To do so, he employs the talents of Olympic freestyle wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). Despite his abilities, Mark has always lived under the shadow of his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) when it comes to the sport and see’s du Pont’s offer as a chance of a lifetime. However, an increasingly strange du Pont eventually hires Dave as well, turning Mark’s experience into a very difficult and life-changing one.

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As Moneyball was built in and around the sport of Baseball, Miller chooses to do so again, this time focusing on Wrestling. However, Moneyball was less about the sport itself and more about the individual embroiled in it. The same rules apply in Foxcatcher. Wrestling is only the backdrop to allow him to explore the fractured psyche’s of eccentric multimillionaire John du Pont and his chosen protégé Mark Schultz. As a result, Foxcatcher becomes less of a sports biopic and more of a restrained character study. To compliment that approach, he teases some career best work from his trio of actors. First off, both Steve Carell and Mark Ruffalo have managed to gain Oscar nominations for their work here and it’s easy to see why. Normally known for his comedic work, Carell hides under a lot of prosthetic make-up which, at first, is distracting but over time, it’s apparent that his performance towers over and above his enormous hooter and he delivers a work of great subtlety. Carell’s du Pont is a very creepy and manipulative character. A man who’s used to getting what he wants and when that doesn’t happen, the consequences can be dire. Ruffalo, on the other hand, is the understated heart of the piece. As Dave Schultz, he’s a family man with good intentions, his only aim is to succeed in what he’s good at while providing for his wife (Sienna Miller) and young children but also to provide for and support his younger brother, Mark. This is were Channing Tatum comes in. Not normally an actor that I greatly admire, Tatum delivers solid work and can consider himself unlucky not to receive an Oscar nomination along with his co-stars. His whole demeanour and physicality has changed. Cauliflower ears included, he carries himself with the frame of a primate and despite his limited intellect, he has the drive to be the alpha male yet contradictorily displays an infantile vulnerability to the paternal du Pont where Miller also seems to hint at the development of a psycho-sexual relationship.

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The psychological interplay between these three different characters is the real driving force behind Miller’s most accomplished film yet. It manages to be a moral commentary on the class divide – the drive and passion of the working class mirrored against the privileged and self-indulgent lifestyles of the wealthy elitists and their vacuous void in truly achieving something meaningful in life. Even du Pont’s rhetoric brings the weighty theme of American exceptionalism.

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Despite their lack of money, the love and camaraderie between the Schultz brothers is a richness that du Pont can only dream of but Miller never forces the issue. His deliberate and retrained approach is reflected in his actors as they slowly reveal the layers to their characters and as jealousy and obsession begin to take hold, so does the enormity of the calamitously dysfunctional relationships.

FOXCATCHER

Hugely rich in detail and thoroughly deserving of it’s Oscar nominations (although not to receive a Best Picture nod is an enigma). This is a film that ominously creeps up on you and before you know it, has you in a choke hold from which it’s hard not to submit to. Strong work by all involved.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: Because the project took so many years to get off the ground, many actors were considered for the lead roles. Heath Ledger, Ryan Gosling and Bill Nighy were strongly considered in the early stages of production.

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65 Responses to “Foxcatcher”

  1. Not a great movie, but it does have some of the best performances from the past year. Good review Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally agree on the performances, Dan but I also took a lot from the film itself. I thought Miller handled things very assuredly and the drama and tension were delivered at just the right time. I thought it was great. Cheers mate!

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  2. Hope to catch up to this soon. Another fine review, Mark.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is a really good movie. I thought the ending was a bit abrupt and clunky but the performances are so good! All three bring it. I love what you say about the psychological interplay. So true and each character comes from a different specific perspective which makes that interplay so compelling.

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    • I loved it, man. And the interplay between the three outstanding leads was a big reason for that. I didn’t have a problem with the ending, though. If anything, the abruptness only added to it being all the more hard hitting. I suppose it also helped that I didn’t know how this story played out. Over my neck of the woods we heard nothing of this story or it’s outcome. At least not to my knowledge.

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  4. Is this the one where the Scots learn to use weasel urine to catch foxes and make hats??

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  5. Cracking review, mate, of a cracking film. There are some very good points in there. I feel the same way about Tatum…a bit so-so in everything I’ve seen him in before this but he holds his own against those other two great performances. It’s got such an odd feel to it … Miller is going from strength to strength.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers buddy. Really liked this film, man. A lot more than I thought I would. I’m with you on Tatum too. I thought he brilliant and he must feel like shit when Carell and Ruffalo get a nomination and he doesn’t.

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  6. I really liked the film but unfortunately I think most people will think it is slow. Carell was just mesmerizing as du Pont.

    While Ruffalo’s already an accomplished actor and Carell always had it in him but I gotta say Channing Tatum really impressed me most of all. He trained his ass off for 7 months and it looked like it. He said “You can fake boxing in a movie, you can fake other things. You cannot fake wrestling. It’s not possible,” “Everything that you see, it is flesh on flesh and hitting the mat. And the harder that you do it, the better it looks and that’s the way we did it.” I haven’t I seen an actor pull off a physical role that convincingly since Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.

    Hooking up with Soderbergh and showing off his comedic chops in the Jump Street movies tells me that he’s not destined to be the next Josh Hartnett. Good for him.

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    • I absolutely agree, Dave. I’m not normally a fan of Tatum but he was just superb in this. They all were but Tatum surprised me the most too. Good shout on the physicality of his role and how he managed to pull it off.
      As it goes, I just rewatched A Guide To Recognising Your Saints and even though Tatum was a lot younger, he was really very good in that too.

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  7. Yeeeeesssss! Great review! Mark; you’ve hit the proverbial nail there. American cinema doesn’t produce enough of these kinds of movies these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to hear we’re in agreement here, sir. I thought this was brilliant and I’m very surprised that it hasn’t struck as high a chord with everyone. Miller is a director that requires patience from his audience but he rewards you for it.

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  8. Great review of a great film, Mark. This one has grown on me since I saw it & I rate it pretty highly out of all the films I’ve seen so far this year. The performances are excellent! Glad I made myself go to this “movie about wrestling”. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hi Mark! I don’t normally like Tatum but he’s good here, though I think it’s Carrell and Ruffalo who delivered masterful performances. I have to say that this is one of those films I appreciate and admire but not necessarily love, it’s just way too somber for me.

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    • Hey Ruth. I didn’t mind the sombre tone at all. I felt it creeped up on you rather than overwhelm you and a lot of that was due to Miller’s excellent handling and the performances. I’m not normally a fan of Tatum or Carell but I thought they were both superb and Ruffalo is as reliable as always.

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  10. Great review. I liked the performances but man, was I bored!

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  11. All those Oscar nominations (including Director) and no Best Picture love. Definitely an enigma. Such a haunting film. It sticks with you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I loved it, Mark. That snub for best picture is a strange one though. You’ve got to wonder how the academy can praise a film in some major categories but excluded it from the big one!? Baffling!

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  12. Spot on mate. you read my thoughts and this and think we’re on the same page totally. The pace didn’t bother me at all, it flew by for me. Great performances all round and Carell is my pick for Best Actor although I know it won’t happen.

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    • Cheers Chris. After reading your review, it was glaring that we were singing from the hymn sheet here. The pace wasn’t an issue for me either. In fact, I never even noticed it until other bloggers started to complain about it.

      As for Carell, I’m not not a fan of his but he was outstanding here. I doubt he’ll get the Oscar but I wouldn’t complain if he did.

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  13. Great review Mark. I’ve just seen the film and I was really impressed with how Bennett Miller kept the suspense in the story. It is quite late in the game when it becomes apparent that Du Pont is a total fraud who has no idea how wrestling works. By the end Du pont looked like an entirely different character which is a tribute to Carrell’s clever performance and the direction. It was a fascinating character study. One thing that did wrangle me about the film was the implied sexual abuse scene. My girlfriend and I had a long debate as to whether they were having sex in that scene, we watched it a few times and it still wasn’t clear. I think this was a deliberate attempt from Miller to mislead his audience. It is strongly implied after that scene that Mark starts to build up resentment towards Du Pont. I was intrigued enough about the scene and the film to do some research. I discovered that the real Mark Schultz hated the film when it was released because of how misleading that scene is. It seems that Miller was playing fast and loose with the facts in pursuit of a more interesting story. Overall though this isn’t enough to stop it being a great movie. For me the film had a timely message about how empty the lives of the super rich can be. Du Pont yearned for recognition that his inherited wealth couldn’t give him. It kind of reminded me of Citizen Kane in its portrayal of the super rich potentially being utterly isolated and lacking human connection. I thought you might be interested in reading this article about the real life case. The real puff piece documentary that the real Du Pont commissioned is in the article. He really was a shameless narcissist with delusions of grandeur. http://www.historyvshollywood.com/reelfaces/foxcatcher/

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    • Interesting article there Darren. That certainly clears a few things up. I too wondered about that sexual abuse scene but couldn’t quite make heads or tails from it. It took me aback a little and I can see why the real Mark Schultz wasn’t happy about it. However, I still think it adds a real edge to film and their relationship. Du Pont was definitely a strange character. Either in real life or through Carell’s superb performance.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. As you know already, one of my favorites of last year. Carell, Ruffalo and Tatum just blew me away. And call me crazy, but I totally dug the slow-as-molasses pace of this movie. It really set up the stage for the devastating finale. Loved this one. Hope Carell is duly rewarded for a career-changing bit of work.

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    • Definitely a real highlight from last year Tom. I really didn’t mind the pace either. Like you say, it only adds to the devastating ending. And the performances are top notch. I wouldn’t mind Carell winning the Oscar but I don’t see it happening.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah, I’m pretty sure you’re right there man. Eddie Redmayne, if that’s who you’re thinking as well, was just too magnificent as Stephen Hawking. And honestly I’d be okay with that win.

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      • To be honest, I haven’t seen The Theory of everything, and can’t comment on Redmayne’s chances. But I reckon Keaton is his biggest contender. As for Redmayne, I can only go on the opinions of others but I really have no interest in that film.

        Sometimes, I reckon the oscars feel the need to include “British” films in order to make them look more distinguished. It’s a lot of shit! And The Kings Speech is a (recent) prime example of that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah well we won’t disagree too much there man. I really was comfortable with all selections minus the obvious. Where the f**k was Jake Gyllenhaal? I hope Keaton takes home the prize. My god he was great. And it’s been a long time coming, too.

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      • I’m really taken aback with Gyllenhaal as well. I didn’t think Nightcrawler was as good as it had been touted but Enemy was enough for me. Gyllenhaal was definitely in two of the years best films (and two of the best performances).

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am aching to see Enemy dude! Aching!

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      • It’s within my top 5 of the year,man. Great movie that has been criminally overlooked.

        Liked by 1 person

  15. Again, excellent work Mark! I have been waiting to see this, I would love to see how it all comes together. Hopefully soon. It looks very interesting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks again, Zoe! Yeah, I really liked this film. It was another from last year that surprisingly took some flack from audiences. It was apparently too slow for a lot of people. I didn’t think so. I was absolutely gripped throughout and the performances are top drawer.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. Excellent review Mark, definitely need to see this one.

    Liked by 1 person

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