Review: Foxcatcher

A grim tale about some of humanity’s worst, albeit more subtle, traits. Great acting all around but does this story really need to be told?

Based off a true story, two brothers are Olympic medal winners in wrestling, but now they are older the youngest brother wants to start out on his own, feeling neglected in his sibling’s shadow. When a wealthy company owner contacts him and pledges his unwavering support and chance to escape his brother, he accepts in a heartbeat. But was this decision really the best?

Foxcatcher is not a film I would normally see in the cinema, these stories I feel don’t require the big screen. That and I go to the cinema as escapism, for a good time.
Do not go to see Foxcatcher if you are in a bad mood.

But my reason to watch this was the casting. Channing Tatum as the younger brother Mark, graduating from GI Joe and 21 Jump Street into a serious role, Mark Ruffalo and a bleakly transformed funny man Steve Carell. I was intrigued. If anything, this film will be the one you cite in the future when someone says: “Steve Carell never does any serious roles!”

And for these actors yes, the film is incredible and unique, especially Carell who is virtually unrecognisable as the born-to-riches but withered John du Pont. Tatum must be delivering his most severe and emotive performance ever, quite incredible, and Ruffalo cannot be ignored either! They are all powerhouses here and each clashes with the other mercilessly.

The film itself though is a hard, hard watch. Just over two hours it begins with deliberate ambiguity with the two Schultz brothers languishing in their past successes, Mark (Tatum) struggling with self worth and David (Ruffalo) a happy family man. Even upon Carell’s introduction little is being suggested, little is being betrayed in terms of motivation. At first I was suffering.
The tone of the movie is suffocating, bleak and with unforgiving stillness (if you brought popcorn, you will regret it!) even when the characters are victorious it feels like a loss!

But perhaps an hour in characters begin to be enlivened (not that they weren’t well portrayed to begin with, in fact thanks to the initial “slow boil” these later moments are all the stronger) and they start to show their true colours, consequences are realised and we see how these people really respond. Unfortunately I cannot say without spoiling, but two thirds of the way in this film becomes bombastic and terrible and incredible, all barrelling along towards a bitter end.

But it really, really is depressing. I don’t feel as though this story needed to be told; it is a sad, tragic tale of reality and while told through an incredible lens of truth and gravitas, I can’t help but ask questions that demean every character involved. Why did they do this? Why did he do that? Surely all of it could be avoided if…?
And sure that is likely the point, the film’s theme is clearly about the frailty of the human condition and now things are never truly good and well, that people are dumb and callous and selfish most of the time, and are hurtful and short sighted to those around them.

So yeah, that’s this movie: a bleak and depressing but totally realised character study with incredible acting. Enjoy.

Additional Marshmallows: I sort of forgot what with all the doom and gloom, the wrestling is central to the plot and, from my extremely limited perspective, appears to be well represented in the sort of training and skill required.

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