One of my first posts on this blog was an overview of what I thought were some of the underrated and overrated films released in 2014. In that post, I said that Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher was one of the underrated films of the year but recently, I saw a Taste of Cinema list which said that Foxcatcher was one of the most OVERrated films of the decade. So I decided to rewatch the film (it was on Foxtel a month or two ago) and rethink my verdict.
Foxcatcher is a sports drama biopic about the incredibly tense relationships between champion wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), his family-man brother Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and the cold approval-hunting billionaire John du Pont (Steve Carell).
First thing that you might want to know about Foxcatcher before even considering to watch it, is that is dark, very dark. Foxcatcher is far from a light watch and much further from a comedy of any sort.
When Channing Tatum began his career in films, I doubt anyone could have assumed that he would later be giving Oscar worthy performances (She’s the Man and Step Up don’t exactly hold a plaque in the Academy lobby). Tatum’s performance in Foxcatcher is not only a step away from his usual genres but it is also a statement that he is ready for more dramatic roles as he doesn’t over-act or under-act this one, he just plays it straight.
Some would say Mark Ruffalo gives the best performance in this movie and some parts of me would agree. Mark Ruffalo has a great habit of acing every single character he plays by only doing what is necessary and doing it well with no change here.
While some would say Ruffalo is the best player in the film, many would agree that Carell is the stand-out not in quality, but in quantity. The best performances in films are the performances where you forget there is an actor behind the character and you feel you are watching a documentary. Steve Carell’s performance as John du Pont is interesting because he’s completely removed his skin and replaced it with that of du Pont but every now and then, you think to yourself “that’s Steve Carell”. But his performance is brilliant nonetheless.
I haven’t seen Capote or Moneyball (both also directed by Bennett Miller) but from seeing Foxcatcher, I’m hoping they have similar directing to this because it is quite noticeable and it works well for the story type.
Miller plans his shots in this film to be as cold as possible. Not cold as in menacing rather than cold as in shots that make you feel like you’re cold. Miller chooses to shoot open-door landscapes and single-floor arenas to make you feel isolated. Foxcatcher isn’t a horror film but the isolation did add something special I just can’t find a name for right now.
There are a few (not many) scenes in Foxcatcher which are powerful and very eerie to watch and there is one scene in particular towards the end which has incredible power but other than these moments, the film is pretty slow.
Foxcatcher held host to quite a few moments where I was checking my watch due to tiredness. There are too many scenes of Mark Schultz in repetitive wrestling matches that don’t add anything to the story other than informing the audience that Schultz is a wrestler. WE GOT IT THE FIRST FIVE TIMES.
Foxcatcher is slow and there are definitely some moments that could’ve been taken out but other than that, Mark Ruffalo is brilliant, Channing Tatum is unexpectedly great as he isn’t known for drama but he aces this role, Steve Carell is different and powerful in all the scariest ways and Bennett Miller likes to make us feel isolated and cold… so cold.
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