Foxcatcher (2014)


Steve Carell stars as millionaire John du Pont in the disturbing true story of du Pont’s attempt to recruit and train wrestlers for Olympic glory. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo star as wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz. Mark falls under du Pont’s spell pretty easily, allowing du Pont to fill the role of father figure that older brother Dave once filled. But when du Pont’s faith in Mark’s athletic prowess is shaken, du Pont begins to favor Dave, inciting jealousy between the brothers and dangerous unease among all three men. 

Foxcatcher is hard to talk about without diving into the subtext. Du Pont is trying to become a revered father figure through his wrestling mentoring program — a position he doesn’t quite deserve in earnest. When he learns he can’t buy his students’ respect and admiration, he begins to crack. You can look up the true story and find out what happens ahead of time, but if you plan on watching the movie, I recommend going in blind. You might never guess where the story is headed. 

Director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) does a truly masterful job here. He beautifully portrays a complicated triangular relationship. Nothing is telegraphed, there’s commendable subtlety and restraint in the film, and the acting is outstanding all around. Miller also captures an eerie, elegant atmosphere at du Pont’s sprawling mansion and training complex. The cold, hollowness of it informs our understanding of the du Pont character. Foxcatcher gains narrative depth from Miller’s stylistic choices — especially in shot composition, editing, and scoring. When you’re dealing with three male characters who rarely speak their minds, these stylistic choices pick up the slack and tell you everything you need to know – how small they feel in their own worlds, and how single-minded they become. I don’t know how else to say it except that Foxcatcher, directorially, seems more fully intentional, tightly controlled and uncompromised than other movies. It’s just a truly outstanding directing job.

With Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, and Anthony Michael Hall.

Oscar Nominations: Best Actor (Carell), Supporting Actor (Ruffalo), Director, Original Screenplay, Makeup & Hairstyling

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