At The Omniplex: ‘Foxcatcher’ Is An Uncomfortable Watch But Needs To Be Seen

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Steve Carell and Channing Tatum in ‘Foxcatcher’.


By John Lyons

‘Foxcatcher’ is a difficult film to describe. It’s cold, it’s nuanced, and it’s haunting.

But perhaps it’s best summed-up in the words of it’s director, Bennett Miller: “At first it’s not funny, then it’s really not funny, and then it’s just not funny at all…”

Though Miller’s description of the film is a bit tongue-in-cheek, it’s not exactly untrue.

This chilling and emotionally suppressed drama is Miller’s third biography and his second sports biography.

And much like Darren Aronofsky’s films ‘The Wrestler’ and ‘Black Swan’, ‘Foxcatcher’ has rather little to do with the actual sport itself and instead is more of an intense character study.

Channing Tatum stars as Olympic gold-winning wrestler Mark Schultz, a man forever destined to live in the shadow of his older brother, Dave (played by Mark Ruffalo), a more prominent and respected wrestler.

Despite his status as a world-famous olympic wrestler, Schultz is living a meagre existence in relative squalor.

That is, until he is plucked out of obscurity by millionaire and philanthropist John Du Pont (played by Steve Carell), a man who is the sole heir of his family’s vast fortune.

Du Pont shares a great enthusiasm for the sport of wrestling, and offers Schultz an annual salary and a place to live on his property ‘Foxcatcher Farm’.

In exchange, Mark will allow Du Pont to coach him for the world championships and bear the Foxcatcher name on his wrestling attire, sharing any glory he achieves in the ring with Du Pont.

Carell’s performance as Du Pont is a complete and utter revelation. The pivotal role which he plays in the film is the absolute cornerstone of the entire thing.

Straight from the get-go it’s abundantly clear that there’s something not-quite-right about the man, and that’s putting it mildy.

In fact, Du Pont’s unnerving speech, mannerisms and emotionless gaze initially bear the makings of a modern Bond villain.

From the moment he’s introduced, the primary focus of the film shifts toward him, inch by inch.

He’s a man who’s gotten far too comfortable with the luxuries that money can buy. Anything can be bought, everyone has a price tag on their head and any problem can be solved if enough money is thrown at it. Confrontation is not required.

What’s even more fascinating about the man is his obsession with legacy. He claims he wants to see the country soar again, but really it’s his own reputation that he wants to see soar.

Though Du Pont and Schultz’ relationship is strictly work-related, it does (oddly) draw an eerie comparison to ‘Behind the Candelabra’.

Schultz is simply an object to Du Pont, nothing more. He’s a trophy to show off to colleagues. A key to winning another gold medal to display on the mantlepiece.

‘Foxcatcher’ is an actor’s film, first and foremost. Aided in no small part by the constant sense of unease and the intense bleak atmosphere. And this meticulously constructed film plays like a car crash in slow motion.

It is an uncomfortable watch, sure, but there’s so much substance here that the film definitely demands a second viewing.

What deceptively appears to be a study of the inner life of an athlete gradually rears it’s ugly head as an uncomfortably close view of mental instability.

‘Foxcatcher’ is not a film about wrestling, money, materialism or even inner turmoil. This is a film about a sick man’s incessant attempts at writing his own legacy.


• Follow John Lyons on Twitter: @Fireinthelyons

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