So in my attempts to keep this blog up to date with nothing but the latest cinematic offerings (and since it is Oscar season) here is my thoughts on Foxcatcher.
Foxcatcher Synopsis (off wikipedia)
When wealthy John du Pont (Steve Carell) invites Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to move to his estate and help form a wrestling team for the 1988 Olympics, Mark sees a way to step out of the shadow of his charismatic brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo). However, du Pont begins to lead Mark down a dark road, causing the athlete’s self-esteem to slip. Meanwhile, du Pont becomes fixated on bringing Dave into the fold, eventually propelling all three toward an unforeseen tragedy.
It seems that Foxcatcher has received nothing but lavish praise. Critics love it and it has been nominated for five Academy Awards including for Script, Director, Leading Actor and Supporting Actor.
Given this and my knowledge of the ending I went into Foxcacther expecting to see something special. Review spoiler alert I didn’t.
Yes, the film is really well acted (and the makeup is great) but the characters are one note, the film is overly long and in short the film is not as interesting or clever as the critics and director think it is.
Foxcatcher revels in explaining or attempting to explain character motivations not with dialogue but with actions. The film begins with a long twenty to thirty minute sequence or wrestling and day to day routine. Little to nothing is said but the characters are being developed anyway.
The main character Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) for instance is shown to be leading a lonely life in which he is overshadowed by his brother Davis Schultz. This is interesting enough in theory and in particular you can see why the critics loved it.
As the film drags on though the one-dimensionality of the characters becomes painfully apparent and the film collapses under it. You see exposition through lack of dialogue only works where there is ambiguity where there are multiple interpretations for the actions of characters i.e. in situations where the characters are interesting. The problem is though that the Foxcatcher characters aren’t interesting.
Mark Schultz didn’t know his dad and is looking for a father figure whilst trying to climb out of his brother’s shadow. John ‘Eagle’ Du Pont (Steve Carrell) meanwhile has crippling emotional issues with the distant mother who he cannot please. This is told in cliched and hamfisted ways. A ‘key’ character moment for example is when Du Pont tells Mark that his mother paid his only childhood friend to be his friend. David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) meanwhile is essentially perfect.
If the dialogue lacking and the characters flat the director then doubles down on the film with an overly long run time and lots of scenic shots of the Foxcatcher estate.
After giving Foxcather a good kicking I will conclude by giving it some deserved but qualified praise. The murder scene at the end it is brutally arresting and dramatic. It comes about 30 minutes too late to save the film even more disappointingly it may have succeeded if the scene had been edited into the beginning and everything had been shown in flashback.
As it is then Foxcatcher just didn’t grip me.