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The saga of John du Pont is one of the more bizarre and tragic stories
from the mid-1990s. In Bennett Miller's dark and ominous Foxcatcher,
the episode is framed as a true-life Faustian Tale. But the story is
almost secondary to three outstanding dramatic performances -- two of
which are given by men who are better known for their work in other
Channing Tatum stars as Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz. When we first meet him, he's already reached elite status by winning a gold medal. But the achievement hasn't allowed him to escape the shadow of his older brother, Dave, also a gold medalist. The younger Schultz wants more. He wants to be the best. His past prize also doesn't pay the bills. After training sessions, he's eating ramen noodles. All that changes, however, with a phone call from du Pont (Steve Carell) who offers to pay him and set him up in a first-class training facility on his Pennsylvania estate.
Like Schultz, the multi-millionaire du Pont is a man in a seemingly enviable position who nevertheless wants something greater. He has family issues of his own, as he strives to please his disapproving mother (Vanessa Redgrave). He hopes he can make her proud by leading a team of wrestlers to gold in Seoul in 1988. But du Pont doesn't just want to be a benefactor. Even though he's little more than an extremely wealthy fan, with only a rudimentary knowledge of the sport, he wants to be seen as a coach and mentor to his wrestlers. And so, when Dave arrives to guide his brother, jealousy develops. Dave is everything du Pont wishes he could be, but isn't. He's a great teacher, a great leader. This leads to tension that slowly builds toward the story's shocking climax as du Pont's demons emerge.
As du Pont, Carell is almost unrecognizable beneath make-up and prosthetics. It's a quietly disturbing performance that will definitely have audiences and critics seeing the comic talent in a new light. Action/comedy star Tatum also has a breakthrough turn as the intense and driven young Schultz who grows increasingly uncomfortable under du Pont's subjugation. As a past Academy Award nominee, Mark Ruffalo's exceptional portrayal of the older Schultz comes as less of a surprise. But that doesn't make it any less notable or transformative. The normally wiry Ruffalo packed on a lot of muscle to play Dave Schultz. Here, he looks less like his Bruce Banner alter ego, and more like the Hulk himself. All three performances are a study in the art of subtly. This is a movie that derives drama from silent moments. In many key scenes, it's the words that aren't said that speak volumes.
Foxcatcher features themes of control and manipulation, and wrestling functions as an apt metaphor. It's that most primal of sports one in which you literally bend another person to your will. Ultimately though, the movie is a story about two people who reach for greatness, only to experience a great fall. And it's also the tale of a great man caught in the middle. The saddest part is that it actually happened.
"Foxcatcher" is anything but a wrestling drama. Although based on the
true story of Olympic gold medalist Mark Schultz and his brief years of
training under multi-millionaire John du Pont, "Foxcatcher" expands
well beyond the wrestling ring into the minds of two men longing to
So those expecting anything close to director Bennett Miller's last film, "Moneyball," should be forewarned. This is not a sports movie, but a slow-burning character study (like Miller's first acclaimed film, "Capote") in which the wrestling serves as the visual, physical expression of the psychological struggle between the characters.
When we first meet Mark, played by Channing Tatum, whose versatility continues to amaze, it's 1987 and he is living in the faded glory of his 1984 gold medal. Despite his success, he is living a rather lonely life and itching to accomplish more; his brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), also won gold and Dave feels that leaves him with something to prove. So when John du Pont (Steve Carell) contacts him about paying him to come train at his top-notch facility on his family's estate, Foxcatcher Farm, he sees his opportunity.
Mark and du Pont's philosophies about striving to be the best align, and the two form a close, almost father-and-son bond, though more so because they both feel pressure to live up to others' expectations. Du Pont, in particular, wants to prove himself to his mother (Vanessa Redgrave), who breeds world class horses and finds wrestling barbaric. John's desperation, bottomless checkbook and unresolved family issues make for a dangerous combination, and his relationship with Mark slowly begins to change for the worse. Further complicating the matter is Dave, the only man capable of saving Mark from his demanding expectations of himself and whose coaching expertise intimidates du Pont.
The often unspoken psychological warfare between the three (and, perhaps most importantly, du Pont and his mother) is the driving force of the story more than anything that actually happens on screen. Mark's ups and downs as he competes at the '87 World Championships and '88 Olympic trials are symptomatic of his mental state and the state of his relationship with the other men. As such, "Foxcatcher" is a long, at times brooding film that can drag in spite of the brilliant character development and internal drama.
E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman's script is quiet and doesn't have a lot of big juicy moments for its actors to lean on, so the fact that Carell is totally haunting and captivating in this role says a lot. Du Pont is an incredibly complex character whose back story is mostly implied so as to keep him as unpredictable as possible. Even with all the makeup on, Carell gives the epitome of an understated performance, something you would never dream possible from a guy who has made a career out of big acting and abrasive characters. Undoubtedly some credit goes to Miller, who has churned out acting nominations and wins for his previous casts, and gets Carell and Tatum to pause and linger at all the right moments.
With those two in transforming roles, it's easy to overlook Ruffalo (who always seems to get overlooked). Dave is the comparison point for both these men. He's a family man who is smart, has accomplished a lot and knows what it truly means to work hard. Ruffalo brings his trademark authenticity to his part as the "good guy" and does it so well.
Even when it's too quiet and languishes, "Foxcatcher" is a fine piece of cinema and Miller has established himself as a true auteur. It certainly does not satisfy in the mainstream sense, but its purposeful use of imagery, total avoidance of melodrama and magnifying glass on the human condition make it an undeniably sharp and intelligent art film to be sure.
~Steven C Thanks for reading! Visit Movie Muse Reviews for more
Foxcatcher is a movie for those who value patience as a virtue. There
is not a lot of dialogue and not even a lot of wrestling (which is bold
for a movie centered around Olympic wrestlers) but rarely have I seen a
film that had a constant buildup of tension throughout. One phrase that
you will see a lot when reading about this film is that it is a "slow
burn" which is accurate. It makes you uncomfortable and anxious to the
point of frustration because you are constantly waiting for the other
shoe to drop.
The story centers around Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) an anti-social, brooding athlete who seems to be constantly living in his older brother David's (Mark Ruffalo) shadow. David and Mark have both won gold medals at the 1984 Olympics but more people are drawn to David because he is warm, charismatic, and open...everything that Mark is not. We watch Mark as he seems to go through life with a chip on his soldier, trying to forge his own path without the help of his brother. Mark receives a call from a representative of a John Du Pont (Steve Carell) who wishes Mark to visit him on his Foxcatcher farm and propose the idea of him and the entire USA wrestling team to make Foxcatcher their official training facility with Du Pont bankrolling the entire operation. From there, we watch an initial positive relationship sour as the we learn more about Du Pont and his intentions.
The cast is lights out here. Tatum gives the performance of his career in a dark turn as Mark and Ruffalo might score an Oscar nomination for being the one ray of light as his older brother David, who only has the best intentions for Mark and his future. It is Carell though, who steals the show. You always read about how comedians, whom Carell is more popularly known as, all have a "dark side" in them which is where they get there comedy from that allows them to make shockingly effective transition into drama (think Jim Carrey in "Truman Show" and Robin Williams in "Insomnia") and he will go down as another prime example of that here. Du Pont is a man of privilege who, like Mark, is trying to find a way to make his mark on the world and seek the approval of others. He is socially awkward, maybe even a coward and uses his money and family "dynasty" as its referred to in the film, to give him a sense of entitlement to gain respect from others.
From the point they meet we wonder why Mark would fall into a relationship with Du Pont but we see they do share similarities in terms of their personalities and both feeling the need to prove themselves. So it's no surprise to see the relationship eventually sour because in the fight to become the more relevant one, Du Pont will win due to his already established social status and wealth. Du Pont is always trying to seek the approval of his mother (Vanessa Redgrave), who sees wrestling as a "low sport", and Du Pont tries to create this deluded fantasy of what he is trying to do with this wrestling team to please his mother. Du Pont calls himself a "coach" of the wrestling team, when it seems he knows nothing about the sport, he claims his athletes see him as a mentor and a father figure when in reality, he is just the guy signing their checks. The tension comes to a head once David gets involved and begins to see Du Pont for what he really is and the climax catches you buy surprise and leaves you devastated. .
Director Bennett Miller has only made three films (Capote and Moneyball the other two) but it's safe to say he is three for three with this being his most ambitious work yet. Foxcatcher is the type of film that has failed in the past due to its' modest pace but the performances keep you engaged just enough to be blown away in the end.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Foxcatcher... a limp train wreck of a film, driven only by the tragedy
of the true story on which it's based, and no doubt geared to be hot at
the Oscars thanks to huge departures from typecasting for both Carrell
"Accuracy of events and characterizations be damned - we're making an art movie here!"
Let's summarize, shall we? Forrest Gump and his bearded brother, Quasimodo, both won wrestling gold in the 84 Olympics. Their relationship is somewhat strained, as Forrest feels second best. 1987, we see Forrest poor and down on his luck, when mentally disturbed narcissist, billionaire & self-appointed ace wrestling coach, Montgomery Burns, invites Forrest over to his elaborate estate to wrestle for him and assist in coaching his team in exchange for boarding and big money. Forrest wins gold at the 87 World championships, and fosters a twisted father/son relationship with Mr Burns.
Much homo-erotic bonding, drinking and drug use later, Mr Burns loses his marbles, humiliates Forrest (who is now addicted to booze and cocaine), and instead brings in Quasimodo as assistant coach, reducing Forrest to wrestler status. Forrest cracks under the pressure, and sucks at the 88 Olympics. Mr Burns grows envious of Quasimodo's coaching prowess and success, as well as his efforts to protect Forrest, regardless of poor performance. Forrest gets the boot & takes up cage fighting, while Quasimodo stays behind and eventually gets murdered by a slow-burning, envious Mr Burns.
Channing Tatum plays Mark Schulz, aka Forrest Gump - minus the good humor and sunny disposition... instead replaced by an overly-accentuated ape-walk and a constantly protruding forced under-bite that obviously made it hard to speak. A shame that he had to be portrayed in a mentally challenged, quasi-autistic fashion, when the actual Mark Schulz is in fact a personable guy that had a 3.6 GPA in high school.
Mark Ruffalo is Dave Schulz, aka Quasimodo - having packed on a few pounds of muscle and managing to look exactly like David Cross, our tragic hero is always hunched over and bow-legged, in a morning-after-Brokeback-Mountain kind of way.
And finally, funny man Steve Carrell... John DuPont - who is portrayed as Mr Burns with a speech impediment, an unhealthy love for guns, and a thousand-yard-stare borne of the constant clamoring for his aristocratic mother's affections & approval. His over-accentuated giant nose sadly changes size and shape several times throughout the film.
Everyone else is just a face - added like an afterthought, with no real interactions or discussions with the main characters.
It's got the whole "Faustian retelling, filled with belated guilted patriotism for a fallen American sports champion" vibe about it - throw in some men grappling, oddly shot scenes, men hugging, incredibly slow dialog, men slapping each other's backs and shoulders and a score filled with loads of melancholic piano during dramatic shots, and it's easy to see how it was so loved by the Cannes crowd...
Personally though, I wanted to gouge out my eyes halfway through - the film could have been around 40 minutes shorter were it not for the dramatic artsy landscape / filmed through a window / mundane happenings scenes and the frustratingly slow dialog.
The most entertaining bit during the entire 2-hour ordeal, was having a chuckle at the snoring of the guy sitting behind me.
I went in expecting an epic sports drama of Warrior proportions, and left depressed, wondering where it all went wrong.
Avoid this film like the plague.
Foxcatcher tells the fateful story of John Du Pont and the Olympic winning Schultz brothers. Directed by Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher taps into the psychology behind Du Pont, examining his psyche in the most disturbing of fashions. Steve Carrel delivers a performance that many will find hard to swallow. He is dry, he is awkward, and he is completely insane. To keep it simple, Steve Carrel is absolutely terrific and truly shows his range as an actor. It is an amazing performance that is bound for Oscar glory. The other half to Carrel's Du Pont is Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz. Tatum completely drowns into his character, leading him to turn in a vicious, unapologetic performance that is so perfectly executed that you will soon forget that this is Channing Tatum. When he is on screen, he is Mark Schultz. It is the best performance that Tatum has given in his career and stands to grab a possible Best Suppoting Actor nod at this year's Oscars. The voice of reason for both Mark and Du Pont lies in Dave Schultz, played brilliantly by Mark Ruffalo. Dave serves as this mediator in between Mark and Du Pont especially when their relationship starts becoming more and more intense and violent. The rest of the cast featuring Vannessa Redgrave and Anthony Michael Hall also turn in very sound and great performances as well. As far as acting is concerned, Foxcatcher is a hard film to beat. Every actor is on top of their game here and it really shows how good of a director Bennet Miller is. He takes a seemingly dry script and turns it into an emotional roller-coaster by way of his actors. One scene in particular haunted me involving a simple glare from Tatum's Mark Schultz as he peddles faster and harder upon seeing Du Pont. That scene on paper isn't that interesting but with Miller's uncanny ability to make even the simplest scenes intricate and layered, it works and remains one of the more memorable scenes from the film. The other highlight from this film has to be the cinematography. Everything is filmed with a slight tint of dread and gray, it creates the mood immediately and balances the story perfectly. Overall, Foxcatcher is a great character study featuring top notch performances that push this film into the top ten of the year easily.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Foxcatcher is a 2014 American biographical drama film, directed by
Bennett Miller, starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark
Ruffalo. The screenplay was written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman.
It competed for the Palme d'Or in the main competition section at the
2014 Cannes Film Festival, where Miller won the Best Director Award.
The story of Olympic Wrestling Champion Mark Schultz and paranoid- schizophrenic millionaire coach John du Pont, who murdered Schultz's brother, Olympic Champion Dave Schultz in 1996.
The film has received acclaim from critics, with many praising the performances of Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a 'Certified Fresh' rating of 91%, based on 45 reviews, with an average rating of 8.4/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A chilling true crime drama, Foxcatcher offers Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum a chance to shine - and all three rise to the challenge". Metacritic gives the film a score of 91 out of 100, based on 11 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". Justin Chang of Variety praised the film, writing: "Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum give superb performances in Bennett Miller's powerfully disturbing true-crime saga." Eric Kohn of Indiewire also reacted positively to the film, with most of his praise going towards Carell and Tatum's performances. Donald Clarke of The Irish Times praised Bennett Miller's direction, saying that "he (Miller) hits his stride with a stunning portrayal of psychopathy and moral decadence in the unlikely environment of Olympic wrestling." Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised Carell's performance calling it "career changing". On the other hand, Budd Wilkins of Slant Magazine gave the film a negative review and said that the film "offers us next to nothing of utility or complexity about du Pont's pathology.
I'm not surprised this terrific decent movie has won 2 International Awards.
See It With Your Kids!.There aren't any bad words or sex, just some violence!.
BY RYAN C. SHOWERS
Hearing reactions from people who saw "Foxcatcher" made me instill a mindset in myself to defend against the "slow pacing". (Feeling the discomfort from a long running-time is a movie pet peeve of mine.) However, my experience of "Foxcatcher" was largely different from most everyone else who has discussed the film. I did not want to take my eyes off the screen. The direction from Bennett Miller felt in tune with the story and the characters in a mellow way. He built scenes at a gradual pace, but each scene has a path and reach a distinctive point of impact. Because "Foxcatcher" is so muted, it haunts with the uneasy themes being explored in the screenplay and a deliberate reveal of information in the directing.
The ominous representations of the real-life people by the actors contribute substantially to the outcome of "Foxcatcher". Steve Carell amazed me in his portrayal of John du Pont. It's not the most expressive work of an actor this year, but it's certainly one of the most potent. The comedic actor is transformative and in more ways than the physical ones prompted by the make-up prosthetics, which visibly add to the creation of the mysterious figure. Carell's eyes cut deep into the viewer and sting like a sharp razor blade impaling the warmth of your flesh.
"Foxcatcher" begins as Mark Shultz's story and continues into the film's second act led by Channing Tatum's irate temperament. But the closer the end of the film nears, du Pont begins to consume the story. Carell's performance feels extraordinarily subtle as your start the film, but as "Foxcatcher" endangers the viewer deeper into du Pont's mind, the severity of Carell's performance begins permeate throughout the picture. There's an eerie presence he creates, a torment that does not internally leave you after watching it. (Not to suggest that du Pont is evil, as understood in Miller's direction, there's an nuance of tragedy that looms over the man that makes his story such a grave one to experience.)
Mark Ruffalo's Dave Schultz becomes a driving figure in the last act, along with Carell, as Tatum's importance begins to lessen. The simple, small-town guy with a beacon of knowledge realized by Ruffalo is impressive. Tatum also gives his most accomplished performance to date.
Bennett Miller steps back tonally to his work in somber "Capote" after making the lighter (and forgettable) "Moneyball" in 2011. "Foxcatcher" is in the same quality league as "Capote", but in film he has a peculiar manner of creating the action of the plot. Some may say "Foxatcher" contains too few and far between events in the narrative, but I think Miller creates a drama palpable in the air of every scene, and we, the audience, are parked in a burning tension for two hours.
"Foxcatcher" is a superb film that, as it sits in your mind, grows from the seeds Miller plants in your head as you watch his detailed recounting of events on the du Pont estate. It will disturb you with its bleak vegetation and seduce your flames of darkness.
* * * 1/2 / * * * *
A film that takes its time presenting its case, Bennett Miller's
wickedly brutal "Foxcatcher" entices audiences to learn more about the
questions around us, and where they could lead. Seated firmly in the
center are a trio of dazzling performances from Channing Tatum, Steve
Carell, and Mark Ruffalo, all of which make a compelling case for their
career best works.
Written by Oscar-nominee Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye, "Foxcatcher" tells the story of Mark Schultz (Tatum), an Olympic wrestler who befriends billionaire John Du Pont (Carell) in the mid-1980's. Along with his brother Dave (Ruffalo) and his wife Nancy (Sienna Miller), that new relationship leads to unforeseen consequences.
At the core of this morality tale is Bennett Miller, the Oscar- nominated director of "Capote" and "Moneyball." He allows"Foxcatcher" to study its subjects, and give the audience an in-depth understanding of all the motives involved. With the help of Cinematographer Greig Fraser, and composer Rob Simonsen, the movie's melancholy atmosphere is truly compelling. Miller's brilliance isn't in things he chooses to show, but in the things he chooses not to. He draws out scenes that offer so much to the narrative. There's still so much left on the table that we do not know, which in itself, is perfectly acceptable. Life never gives us all the answers we seek. Miller, Futterman, and Frye understand this. Material like this calls to be made into a film. I'm so glad that these three answered the call.
What Steve Carell achieves as John DuPont is not just a performance by a full embodiment. With strength and precision, he understands DuPont, a man with an extreme outlook on reality. Carell doesn't just ask us to sympathize with John, between his awkward behavior and his constant yearning to impress his family's legacy, he demands our understanding. If I didn't already know about the film for the past two years, I wouldn't have recognized him. His performance is completely focused and profound. Looking at the way he carries himself through the film, you are witnessing one of the purest creations of a character this year. When he's not on-screen, you're secretly wishing he was.
When it comes to Channing Tatum, I have to admit that I never FULLY understood the appeal. Discovered the young ferocious actor in Dito Montiel's "A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints" nearly a decade ago, and afterwards was only mildly entertained by his presence in films like "21 Jump Street" and "Side Effects." What he does in Miller's film is something beyond anything I could have ever thought he could do. Tatum doesn't just do an imitation, he channels the inner workings of a man desperate for more. His peculiarities are richly on display as he yearns for a father figure outside of the shadow of his more successful brother. He embraces the odd DuPont, against all logical instincts, but you can see exactly why he would feel so compelled to do so.
Mark Ruffalo gives Dave the ticks and beats of an original creation. Picking at his beard (something I know all too well), constantly engaging in team leadership, and hugging his younger brother whose more of a son than anything. Ruffalo mounts himself on the perch of a loving brother just trying to create success for himself and his family. This is another solid outing for him.
Co-star Vanessa Redgrave, as John's fragile mother, is marvelous in her short scenes while Sienna Miller adds a needed dynamic to understanding both Mark and Dave. The two women both offer compassion and balance.
"Foxcatcher" is terrifying, disturbing, and utterly engaging. A slowly unraveled piece that is risky but pays off immensely. It's cautious yet strictly well-defined as a character study. Like all great films with great performances, its element of truth is plainly apparent. On the gray-skied farm, we will get to know three interesting men, some of which, we'll never truly understand.
My first night at the Stockholm Film Festival turned out really great
thanks to Foxcatcher. A movie I didn't expect much from, but it was in
fact one of the best movies of 2014. Foxcatcher is a movie that doesn't
have that much action and will surely disappoint those who loves
wrestling and wants to see fights. This is not a movie about the good
side of the sport, it's about the bad one we don't get to see when Hulk
Mania and The Rock performs nowadays.
The film is based upon a true story. Mark Schultz is an Olympic wrestler. His relationship with his sponsor, John du Pont and his older brother leads to very unlikely circumstances between both. John du Pont turns out to be a bit different than the man he first seemed like.
What I first wondered when I read about the film was, "how could they pick Channing Tatum for such a dramatic role? Isn't he that guy who just shows off his abs so the girls can look at something?" Well, in this movie Channing was someone completely different. He is superb as Mark Schultz, I couldn't imagine anyone else playing him after seeing this film. And this is partly what makes the film very watchable and good. Steve Carell (who usually stars in sex comedies) also did an amazing job as John du Pont. I could barely recognize him at first, and forgot that it was him 10 minutes after he first appeared on the screen. In the end, I also forgot what he looks like in real life. Great job on the make up there!
The good performances is definitely what I enjoyed the most. I'm not into wrestling, and Foxcatcher didn't really make me interested. It's a very deterrent example of how some Olympic athletes are trained and treated when they're not on TV. The movie will be out in theaters later this month, and I suggest you to go watch it. If you're not a fan of wrestling, that's even better. I don't like the sport but loved this movie.
However, pick your theater carefully. Sadly, some people in front of me waited to see Channing Tatum naked during the beginning. They were just annoying, but quiet when they realized that they weren't watching a teen comedy. Which was, around thirty minutes into the film. So I didn't really mind! The movie is a bit over two hours long...
Fox hunting is a bloody sport and in the case of Foxcatcher, so is wrestling. You can hear the thud and almost feel the pain as heavily muscled male bodies pound each other. It's almost like a ritual. John DuPont, billionaire and unbalanced eccentric, offers a talented young wrestler the kind of sponsorship that one can only dream of. Why then does Mark Schultz, ensconced in a luxurious guest house with a state-of-the-art training facility, feel so uneasy? Mr. DuPont, played by Steve Carell as you've never seen him before, has some disquieting qualities. I can't avoid thinking that if the characters in this movie, and men in general, had been more articulate about their feelings, a tragedy could have been avoided, but that is irrelevant. The ending of this movie, based on a true story, was in the headlines some years back. If you don't remember what happened, I won't spoil it for you.
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