“You have a problem with me?”
If you thought Bennett Miller’s Capote was a cold and distant crime thriller wait till you watch Foxcatcher because it is a very silent and slow paced psychological character study that explores some pretty interesting relationship dynamics along the way. I was captivated by this film and the atmosphere that Miller sets during its 134 minute runtime. I went into Foxcatcher completely unaware of the story it was based on, and I think that is why I may have enjoyed it a lot more than others who were already familiar with the story. This isn’t your typical inspirational sport film, it is more concerned on studying the characters and you get an eerie sense that it is building into something much more than simply winning or losing a wrestling match. Miller’s Capote was a crime thriller and he followed it with Moneyball which was a sports film centering on relationships, and in a way Foxcatcher is a combination of both those films. Miller is interested in telling real stories and exploring the characters behind them. Unlike Jolie’s Unbroken where we get a sense that she is simply narrating a story where one event unfolds after another; Miller seems to be focused on the characters and their motivations. A lot of people might get bored with the slow pacing and somber tone of the film, but I was engaged with these characters fifteen minutes into the movie. There was a moment during the opening in which I felt the performances were a bit too actory or stagey, but once I got past that I was really invested in the psychological drama behind each one of the relationships. Miller has now directed three impressive films although this is his least approachable one.
There are some outstanding and creepy performances in this film, but the way in which the characters related to one another is what worked best for me. First of all you have these two brothers who’ve each won Olympic gold medals. Mark (Channing Tatum) is the youngest brother who seems to be sort of a social outcast living in the shadow of his older brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo) who is the more likable one. Dave also understands wrestling better and knows how to coach, while Mark is more muscles than anything else. They have a solid and caring relationship with one another, but there is some resentment in Mark. Their relationship changes when a multi-millionaire named John Du Pont (Steve Carell) enters in the picture. He is a wrestling aficionado and offers Mark the opportunity to come stay with him in his ranch and train in the facility he has built there. There is something offbeat with du Pont who is desperately searching for acceptance and recognition. Vanessa Redgrave plays his mother and despite not having much screen time her presence seems to have an effect on John who is seeking for her approval. There is something true about what Miller said when he referred to comedic actors as having something dark about them because Steve Carell pulls off a chilling performance as this eccentric millionaire who tries to become a role model for Mark. The problem is that du Pont isn’t a coach, he is more of a sponsor, and without Dave Mark isn’t that good of a wrestler. Tatum, Ruffalo, and Carell each give strong performances, which doesn’t come as a surprise considering Miller directed each one of his lead actors to receive Oscar nominations in his previous films. The film relies heavily on their performances and they deliver. Carell receives most of the attention because he plays a creepy character who makes everyone around him feel uneasy at times (there is a homoerotic undertone to the film). The moments in which du Pont is trying to impress his mother by acting like he is guiding the wrestlers was the highlight of the film for me because no matter how much money this guy has you know he is desperate to be something he is not. Ruffalo is also outstanding and is given perhaps the most likable role in the movie, but Tatum is equally as good. Foxcatcher succeeds in most part due to those three strong lead performances and the way each one of these characters relates to one another.