Foxcatcher reviews

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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby flipp525 » Fri Jan 30, 2015 2:50 pm

I can kind of see why Mark Schultz was freaking out (even when, I guess, he's just not anymore?). I mean, it is heavily implied that there was some type of "arrangement" between him and du Pont at some point. During the period of the film where Mark is snorting a bunch of cocaine with du Pont and prancing around the house giving "Coach" haircuts wearing nothing but a tight pair of shorts and frosted hair, there definitely seems to be something going on. And then there was that one scene of them wrestling in the dark of the house where, at one point, it actually looks like Mark is being penetrated by du Pont (I know, I'm sure it was just a wrestling move, but it looked like that). With Mark acting like a traumatized abuse victim in the latter half of the film, especially not wanting to be touched by du Pont, there's not a ton of room for a different scenario there.

To echo others below, I thought Ruffalo most believably portrayed a human being in this film. His interview scene with the documentarian was, as previously stated, alone worthy of a nomination. But I also saw some interesting things in Carrel's performance that went beyond just prothestics and robotic-monotone delivery. That speech about the trophy case that he makes to the assembled team after Mark's triumph at Worlds is fantastic. There is a very clear path he takes through the delivery that speaks to a man who's had very little of his own to be proud of in his life. As is the scene where he quickly begins to improvise when he sees Vanessa Redgrave enter the gym. To say nothing of his opening scene which firmly establishes his entire character.

Also, was anyone else shocked that Sienna Miller was in this? I had no clue that was even her until after I finished the film and saw her on a cast list.
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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby kaytodd » Mon Jan 05, 2015 6:18 pm

OscarGuy wrote:I heard that it wasn't actually Mr. Schultz, but a publicity hack from the studio who posted that tirade.

If that is true Miller and Carrell should drop that publicity hack down an elevator shaft. This is not the kind of publicity this film needs. I thought it was a very good film worthy of making the top 8-10 slots for best picture. I also think Miller and Carrell deserve to make the top five in their categories. Now it appears this film could be left off all three categories and Schultz's alleged tirade is a likely factor. He comes off like a gay panicked homophobe when he is needed to push the film on talking head shows as the only remaining survivor of the core events. Too bad. If this was back in the day of five BP nominees I do not thing it should have made it in. But I thought everyone did a good job telling a strange true story that still has a lot of important questions surrounding it to which we will never know the answers, but I still found it very engaging.
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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby OscarGuy » Mon Jan 05, 2015 4:27 pm

I heard that it wasn't actually Mr. Schultz, but a publicity hack from the studio who posted that tirade.
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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby flipp525 » Mon Jan 05, 2015 3:03 pm

Mister Tee wrote:So, this Twitter tirade by Mark Schulz is...um...something.

http://www.awardscircuit.com/2014/12/31 ... oxcatcher/

This is strange. Schultz was on the set while the movie was being made. He was at Cannes and then at Toronto, introducing the film, etc. He seemed happy with the finished product.

I can understand how one might disagree with a filmmaker taking liberties with the real events of your life, but he reacts now like it was a sudden surprise. Where was his outrage in May, September, etc.? In an interview on December 5th, he was still in awe about Miller. What happened in between then and now?

It seems like he's having some sort of gay panic moment.
Last edited by flipp525 on Mon Jan 05, 2015 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby flipp525 » Thu Jan 01, 2015 9:40 pm

The fifth spots in several of these acting races seems like it could offer some real surprises.

And I've been saying that Eddie Redmayne will get left off Best Actor for awhile now. That's my most fearless prediction.
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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby Eric » Thu Jan 01, 2015 10:50 am

Sabin wrote:Foxcatcher succeeds on one front. It announces constantly that there is something sick and wrong with our country.

So did God's Not Dead.

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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby ITALIANO » Thu Jan 01, 2015 4:37 am

Sabin wrote:
Foxcatcher succeeds on one front. It announces constantly that there is something sick and wrong with our country.


Yes, and as today this is an aspect of your country which most American movies tend to conveniently ignore, I'd say that succeeding on that front is enough to make Foxcatcher a very interesting effort - though, clearly, not a masterpiece. And all those unconfortable reactions, even on this board, are the proof that Foxcatcher says or implies things that some, I repeat: even on this board, are unconfortable about, things that maybe hit too close to home.
It's a movie by a good director. Had it been a movie by a great director - I agree - it could have been a fascinating, profound, multi-layered metaphor AND character study. As it is, the metaphor is still there, though more disturbing than multi-layered, and some aspects of the characters could have been better developed - but I wouldn't complain too much: there are certainly worse movies I could have started 2015 with. It's an absorbing, unique story (it helped that I didn't know anything about it except that there had been a murder - but for example I didn't even know WHO would be killed), rather well-told, and it deals with issues in American society that not many movies recently have dared to touch - violence, competitiveness, the power of money, the myth of success, and that pervasive but often negated homosexuality. It's true that some of these issues could have been dealt with with more depth - but in the end I kind of appreciated the writers' approach, the fact they leave the viewer the task of "thinking".
And yes, it IS "cold", "chilly", but I mean - it's not like all movies must be like Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm! Certainly not movies of this type...
The acting is generally VERY good. I don't know if I'd nominated any of the actors - I should see all the competitors - but for example, as far as sociopaths go, Steve Carell is at least more authentic and less compromising than Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler (which is the reason why probably Gyllenhaal will be nominatec and Carell won't be), though, admittedly, most of his performance, good as it is, is given in the first scene we see him in. Mark Ruffalo is great though - the already mentioned "interview" scene alone should lead him to a nomination. And he WILL be nominated, of course - not only because there aren't many contenders in his category this year, but also because he's by now one of the most versatile actors working in American movies. His character in this movie is completely different from the one he played in the (bad) tv version of that AIDS drama which I saw recently - yet he's so convincing, so believable in both. As the French say - chapeau. Very good actor, really.

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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Wed Dec 31, 2014 7:30 pm

So, this Twitter tirade by Mark Schulz is...um...something.

http://www.awardscircuit.com/2014/12/31 ... oxcatcher/

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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby Sabin » Wed Dec 10, 2014 2:41 am

Not much time tonight to write.

Foxcatcher succeeds on one front. It announces constantly that there is something sick and wrong with our country. By conflating images of Revolution Era America with John Du Pont's...we could call them "eccentricities" but they're psychoses, Bennett Miller et al want us to look at these people of great dynasty as if they were cavemen, as if something spoiled at the center of our Nation's bloodline. One of the ways in which it does so is by encouraging as many pause-laden conversations as you've ever seen. I have seen Joe Swanberg movies with more character articulation.

(MORE)

I don't have much more to add. I was fairly entranced by the first forty minutes or so of Foxcatcher. There are some beautiful moments like when Tatum and Ruffalo first begin sparring and you have no Earthy idea what they're doing. Or also in the first scene with Carell's John Du Pont where he describes himself as a Wrestling Coach but then later in the scene speaks of his love of birds and just as quickly also labels himself an ornithologist. If the constant creepiness didn't clue you in already, that should tell you about how much you can trust this guy. It's the most interesting peek into his psychology that the film grants us. From then on out, it's a series of scenes that invite only one question to mind: why is nobody running away from this guy? If Steve Carell is nominated, it will be because of his first scene. It's outstanding. You almost don't need the rest of the film. I'm more positive on Carell than some on this board. This is not a case of makeup doing the heavy-lifting. It just feels that way because the script doesn't demand a lot from him. At first I had no idea what Mark Ruffalo was doing in this film. He seemed to teeter back and forth in and out of Billy Bob Thornton in A Simple Plan territory. I'm not sure rational people exist in Foxcatcher but he comes the closest. Not totally sure he deserves a nomination but he comes significantly more into focus as the film moves along. I'm increasingly impressed with Channing Tatum these days but here he's just playing different shades of Ferdinand the Bull.

Very well shot. Some good sound choices.
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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby The Original BJ » Sat Nov 15, 2014 3:26 am

Although the two films are very different, I responded to Foxcatcher much the same way I did to Whiplash -- in both cases, I think the movie has elements that are compelling, in some cases even praise-worthy. And yet, I think both films have such obvious limitations I feel perplexed by the level of acclaim they have received.

I think I liked the movie overall more than you guys did, mostly because I'm quite a bit higher on the direction/technical elements. Although Moneyball is a better film overall, I think simply from a directing standpoint, this is by far the best work yet from Bennett Miller. This is the first time I've considered that Miller might have the artist gene, and I found much of the early portions of the movie engaging simply because of the haunting, methodical tone the director establishes from the get-go. Dare I say it, but there's something almost Haneke-esque about his camera placement and editing rhythms, in which everything feels so precisely determined, with an air of foreboding hanging over even the most mundane scenes. And I would argue that there are quite a few more memorable shots than the ones Mister Tee listed -- the close-up of the portrait in the dark was chilling, many of the shots of foggy Valley Forge had a beautifully eerie quality to them, there are some odd and off-kilter angles during the wrestling sequences, and the stark white snow in the film's last act was striking. For a while, I was held by richness of the compositions and the overall feeling of dread that kept the entire film feeling beautifully claustrophobic.

But eventually, the movie's narrative really started to become a problem for me, and it's here where I agree that the movie comes up far short on a content level. One of my biggest issues by about the midpoint was that there just didn't seem to be that much conflict in the story -- pretty much everything du Pont does feels a little creepy, but that isn't really enough to propel a narrative along. The entire section that involved training for the Olympics seemed so devoid of obstacle for anyone that I started to have real pacing issues. Just about the only time it picks up after this point involves the suspense over whether or not Mark will make the Olympic team. I also felt a lot of the character motivations in this section were totally fuzzy -- why does Dave change his mind over training at Foxcatcher? Why does Mark start to feel uneasy around du Pont, to the point where he wants nothing to do with him? From a writing standpoint, there are entire stretches where it feels like the filmmakers just forgot to write the plot.

And then there's the ending, which I think is the movie's biggest liability. The big event happens completely out of the blue, with no sense of context or insight into why it occurred, or how it affected anyone afterwards. The movie's approach -- "this is a true event that actually happened, you figure out why" -- seems to be taking way too much of the burden of storytelling off of the filmmakers and putting it on the audience. It was also in this moment that I had a major structural question -- why was Mark Schultz chosen to be the main character for this story? Wouldn't a version told from the point of view of Dave or du Pont -- the two actually involved in the event that gives the entire narrative its existence -- have made a lot more sense? It just seemed to me like no one behind the camera had a clear idea of what story they were telling and why, so much of it feels frustratingly vague.

I, too, felt the performances were generally overpraised. Channing Tatum is well-cast in the part, sure, but he was in Magic Mike too, and I didn't suddenly think he'd become a great actor there either. He's fine for what he's asked to do here, but I don't think that's very much. This movie is obviously a big change of pace for Steve Carell, but I didn't think he had all that much to do either, or at least all that much in terms of range -- from his first scene, he gives us an almost catatonic weirdo, and then pretty much does the same thing in virtually every scene in the rest of the movie. Mark Ruffalo is definitely best in show -- he's the person who comes closest to creating a believable, flesh-and-blood character, who actually seems like he would have a life off-screen, but even there, I didn't find like the movie provided that much context for who he was and why he made the decisions he did.

So, I do think the movie has interesting things going on, though mostly at a style level. And I think it's a lot more compelling to me than something like Theory of Everything -- here, I felt like at least I had seen SOMETHING, and it wasn't necessarily something I'd seen before. But in the end, I didn't really think that something added up to very much, and I'm surprised so many critics have found this to be such a completely rewarding filmgoing experience.

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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby Okri » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:19 pm

Yeah, I hated it. Chilly, remote, lacking a point of view or any reason to exist.

It doesn't build to the ending, but at the same time you know it's coming because otherwise, there would literally be nothing in this story. That Miller won the Cannes jury is just mindblowing to me.

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Re: Foxcatcher reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Fri Nov 14, 2014 9:15 pm

I’ve looked over the reviews posted below, and the ones floating around today, and I have to wonder, what movie did these people see? I’m afraid Foxcatcher left me almost completely cold.

To me, this is a movie with no discernible point of view. Wrestler Channing Tatum is bankrolled by Olympic-medal-craving duPont heir Steve Carell ; Tatum’s also-a-wrestler brother, Mark Ruffalo, resists becoming involved in the project, then changes his mind and signs on; the Olympics come and go, without the glory hoped for; and something awful happens (not really a spoiler: if it didn’t, there’d be no reason whatever for the film). The problem is, all this happens in close to a dramatic vacuum: events unfold without much build (or, sometimes, explanation);there don’t seem to be any crucial scenes – in fact, some seemingly major moments (including the Olympics) are elided past as if it would be gauche to dwell on them. I never got any sense of a story headed anywhere (certainly not to where it ended up). And I never felt this was a story that had to be told, for what it illustrated about grander aspects of society, or for any deeper understanding of human behavior.

The film FEINTS at providing context or reasons – showing/telling us, at various points, that: Tatum/Ruffalo had an erratic, vagabondish childhood; the brothers love each other but are also competitive; Carell had and has major mother issues; drugs maybe do crazy things to some heads; and the duPonts, in case you didn’t know, are pretty rich. But none of this ties together in any coherent way, and it certainly doesn’t lead inexorably to the finale, which it just about has to for the film to be anything beyond a lurid true-crime event. A lot of critics seem to be praising the film for not reducing this act by offering a simple explanation – but there has to be something leading to it, or it’s simply a random event. Two other things about it also bother me, which stray into SPOILER ALERT territory: 1) With all the emphasis DuPont puts on his tank with machine-gun top, I was expecting a far more gaudy display of violence; and 2) I was shocked to find, upon Googling, that this event took place in 1996! – which makes it all the more inexplicable, and even less connected to the drama preceding. Why would Ruffalo have stayed on so long? What does Tatum’s character have to do with any of this, in the end? The film offers nothing; it seems content to let us figure all this out for ourselves.

I found Capote hugely overrated, but I fully enjoyed Moneyball, not least because Bennett Miller displayed touches of humor mostly missing from his first film. Here, he’s back in humorless territory, in fact moreso than before – the tone is funereal from the get-go. (The only moment I approached laughing was when Carell told Tatum what name to call him) I guess, from a craft point of view, the film is well enough made, but the only truly memorable shots I can think of are the opening of Tatum wrestling with the beanbag, and Carell with the horses. (The latter would have been better if it had meant anything beyond what a sick puppy this guy was) None of this would be fatal if the narrative were strong enough, but, as I’ve said, I found the narrative the film’s major flaw.

So, that leaves the performances, which I’m not disposed to trash, but I think are being somewhat over-praised. Carell is, certainly, very different from his usual, but he fails to create a penetrable human being (not that one was written for him). He mostly stands there in that odd make-up and speaks in that odd voice. Not a bad performance, but nothing I’d scream must be nominated. Channing Tatum is an interesting case. Because he’s recently up-from-bimbo-hood, one tends to give him a lot of credit for showing taste in his projects and taking on interesting characters. But I’m not sure he shows anything special enough to rate the high praise he’s been getting for this. Then again, it’s possible he, too, is hobbled by the script to such a degree that it’d be impossible for him to reach such heights.

The best, for me, is Mark Ruffalo. His brother character only really comes into focus during the last half hour, but for me his work during that time got me closest to feeling something in this film might gel. He’s got a pretty terrific scene, with an interviewer shooting a documentary, that hints at what the filmmakers might have meant the movie to be about. (It doesn’t come to fruition, but at least while it’s going on, one can hope.) I’d been hearing Ruffalo mentioned as only a weak supporting actor possibility, but as far as I’m concerned he easily ranks alongside clear nominees Norton and Simmons.

I’ve been disappointed in some other films of recent vintage – Whiplash, notably – but this is the first in a while that makes me wonder what most people are smoking.

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Foxcatcher reviews

Postby Mister Tee » Mon May 19, 2014 4:06 pm

Because it's English-language/mainstream the Cannes entry so far most likely to make its way into the Oscar race.

Foxcatcher

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In “Capote” and “Moneyball,” Bennett Miller gazed into the souls of real-life American iconoclasts launching bold and unexpectedly costly new enterprises, a theme that the director has now taken to powerfully disturbing extremes in his great, brooding true-crime saga “Foxcatcher.” Chronicling the events leading up to the 1996 murder of Dave Schultz, the Olympic wrestling champion who tragically found the wrong benefactor in the Pennsylvania multimillionaire John E. du Pont, this insidiously gripping psychological drama is a model of bleak, bruising, furiously concentrated storytelling, anchored by exceptional performances from Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and an almost unrecognizable Steve Carell. Perhaps the sole credible awards-season heavyweight to have emerged from this year’s Cannes Film Festival, the Nov. 14 Sony Classics release should land with major impact among serious-minded moviegoers, as well as a possible cross-section of Tatum and Carell fans who don’t mind a dramatic change of pace.

Despite its hefty 134-minute running time, “Foxcatcher” doesn’t have an ounce of the proverbial narrative fat: If the screenplay, by Dan Futterman (“Capote”) and E. Max Frye, is relatively spare in terms of dialogue, it’s satisfyingly rich and thorny in its conception of the tightly wound triangle at its center, while Miller’s direction evinces the same sustained intensity and consummate control of his material that defined his first two features. Crucially, this meticulously researched picture feels as authentic in its understanding of character as it does in its unvarnished re-creation of the world of Olympic sports in the late ’80s; rarely onscreen has the art of wrestling, centered around the violent yet intimate spectacle of men’s bodies in furious collision, provided so transfixing a metaphor for the emotional undercurrents raging beneath the surface.

The film begins and ends on Mark Schultz, played by Tatum with the perpetual frown and painfully inarticulate speech of a man who, despite having won a gold medal for wrestling at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, has been made to feel like an underachiever for much of his life. Stuck in a glum cycle of training by day, eating ramen by night and doing the occasional speaking engagement in between, Mark has long lived in the shadow of his older, more gregarious brother, Dave (Ruffalo), a devoted family man who’s had an enviable wrestling career (the Schultzes remain the only American brothers in history to have both won Olympic and world championships).

Yet to define their relationship in terms of sibling rivalry would be reductive, given the tender and complicated portrait of fraternal love that emerges. Dave has been looking out for Mark since their parents split when they were young boys, and the film proves particularly attentive to the fact that their regular wrestling practice provides a natural physical outlet for their occasional bouts of aggression. And so, when Mark receives an out-of-the-blue invitation from du Pont (Carell) to come train as part of a national U.S. wrestling team preparing for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, he instinctively asks his brother to join him. Dave, however, is unwilling to uproot his wife (Sienna Miller) and two kids, leaving Mark to strike out on his own and move onto du Pont’s Valley Forge-adjacent, helicopter-accessible estate.

While the house’s sprawling grounds are undeniably impressive, including a long-running horse-racing operation known as Foxcatcher Farm, it’s du Pont (Carell) who really gets the viewer’s attention. Sporting pale, lightly freckled skin, near-invisible eyebrows and a large prosthetic nose, Carell doesn’t look anything like himself — nor, for that matter, does he sound much like himself, delivering his speech in slow, stilted dribs and drabs, the somewhat nasal register barely concealing an edge of steel. We’re right to be wary: For all the money, perks (including cocaine) and declarations of gratitude that du Pont lavishes on Mark, who responds with all the loyalty of a love-starved puppy, one immediately senses something unhealthy, even sinister, about this curious entrepreneur and his unusually controlling nature.

The warning signs begin to add up at an alarming rate: du Pont’s refusal to ease up on the relentless training regimen he imposes on Mark and the other wrestlers; his gaseous invocations of American patriotism and honor as the reasons for his pursuit of Olympic glory; his delusional belief that he can all but singlehandedly save U.S. wrestling; his disquieting love of firearms; and, not least of all, the dangerously soft tenor of his voice when he doesn’t get what he wants. And what he wants, more than anything, is for Mark to persuade his smarter, more seasoned brother Dave to join Team Foxcatcher.

How this eventually transpires is ultimately less fascinating than what comes afterward, as the widely cheered arrival of Dave and his family — to the chagrin of Mark, who finds himself in danger of being upstaged by this semi-prodigal son — lends the entire scenario the quiet dread of a ticking time bomb. Moving from team training sessions to the 1988 Olympic trials, where Mark’s seething resentment gets the better of him on the mat, the picture builds a slow-motion tragedy of astounding psychological acuity and narrative tension. And as Mark’s personal and professional freefall forces Dave to play the mediator, du Pont seems to retreat ever further into his own private cave; he becomes increasingly contemptuous of anyone who tries to thwart him, even as he comes to realize the essential hollowness of the beloved mentor-figure persona he’s created for himself.

What we’re left with, then, is an acrid, anguished commentary on the temptations of wealth, the abuse of power and the downside of the human drive for success, as well as a picture that, in setting a cold-blooded account of a true crime in the world of competitive sports, retains a faint narrative kinship with both “Capote” and “Moneyball.” But any lessons we’re meant to glean from “Foxcatcher” ultimately pale next to the strange, specific and singularly haunting experience of the movie itself as it moves, with inexorable momentum, toward its stark, brutal climax.

In setting up their finale, Miller and his collaborators don’t make the mistake of overanalyzing their villain’s motives, trusting Carell’s subtly mesmerizing work to carry the burden of credibility. (Still, du Pont’s peculiar, difficult relationship with his mother, played by a primly disapproving Vanessa Redgrave, is certainly open to Freudian interpretations.) Yet while Carell may deliver the most transformative turn here, it’s merely one of three supremely accomplished performances that connect thrillingly onscreen.

Always at his best when he can bring his intense physicality to bear on a role (“Magic Mike”), Tatum delivers what is easily the most emotionally complex performance of his career, hulking through much of the picture exuding rage, surliness and disappointment, qualities that recede only during Mark’s brief honeymoon period with du Pont. And although he’s 12 years older than the role calls for, Ruffalo is wonderful as the big-hearted, salt-of-the-earth Dave, always ready (sometimes to a fault) to stand in the gap and defend those he loves.

In addition to the great brotherly rapport these two actors achieve here, they spent months learning to wrestle and absorbing the Schultz brothers’ signature moves; as choreographed by Jesse Jantzen, their bouts and stunts here are superbly convincing, shot in clean, long takes that allow viewers a clear sense of bodies in motion. These scenes are themselves deftly integrated into a finely detailed portrait of the wrestling community (with appearances by real-life wrestlers including a cameo by Mark Schultz himself) that fascinates in and of itself, from a shot of the athletes standing in lines to weigh themselves, to a scene of Mark frantically peddling a stationary bike in a last-ditch attempt to drop several pounds.

After the flat, brown prairies of “Capote” and the ugly backrooms of “Moneyball,” Miller here confirms his stature as a poet of plain-looking America, bringing us into a humdrum world of hotel rooms, locker rooms and school auditoriums. Warm, bright colors have been leached almost entirely from d.p. Greig Fraser’s muted, wintry images and from Jess Gonchor’s subtly ’80s production design; Rob Simonsen’s score is spare and beautifully ominous, while the exceptional sound work often alternates feverish background noise with silence to highly unsettling effect.


Hollywood Reporter

'Foxcatcher': Cannes Review
2:13 AM PDT 5/19/2014 by Todd McCarthy
The Bottom Line

A superbly modulated study of a twisted mind with a career-changing performance by Steve Carell.

Bennett Miller's wrestling drama stars Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo.

Mesmerizing in its incremental layering of a bizarre, tragic and thoroughly warped character study, Foxcatcher sees director Bennett Miller well surpassing even the fine work he did in his previous two films, Capote and Moneyball.

Centered on an astonishing and utterly unexpected serious turn by Steve Carell, this beautifully modulated work has a great deal on its mind about America's privileged class, usurious relationships, men's ways of proving themselves, brotherly bonds and how deeply sublimated urges can assert themselves in the most unsavory ways. Yet another adventurous, first-class production from Annapurna Pictures, the Sony Pictures Classics release has everything going for it to prevail as one of the major prestige titles of late 2014.

The superb screenplay by E. Max Frye (Something Wild) and Dan Futterman (Capote) scores strongly on several fronts: Penetrating the mindset of the uppermost tier of longstanding East Coast wealth, making some very diverse characters psychologically plausible, and revealing in smartly judged stages the sickness of a man mentally ill, emotionally stunted and sexually stunted. In this moment of sexual forthrightness and pride, it's bracing and fascinating to behold such an exceptionally detailed and creepy study of monumental self-repression and the results it can yield.

The story hinges on a shocking murder committed in 1996 by John du Pont, an oddball member of one of the country's richest families, of Dave Schultz, a former Olympics wrestler who ran the titular training program at the center du Pont built on his Pennsylvania estate. It took a long time -- nine years -- to build up to the crime, which seemed so lacking in motive that du Pont was simply declared not to be "in his right mind" when he put three bullets into his longtime associate.

Bennett and his writers have dedicated themselves to detailing what they believe was really behind the sorrowful affair. In 1987, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is a dour young man seemingly at a dead end. He was a gold-medal winner in wrestling three years earlier at the Los Angeles Olympic games, but all he can do now is stare at the medals and trophies in his crappy apartment and try to rouse the interest of elementary school students in sports. His older brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), also took home wrestling gold and is Mark's only source of human warmth and love, but he's off in Colorado with his wife Nancy (Sienna Miller) and their young kids.

Mark could therefore not be more susceptible to persuasion when he's paged to fly for a visit to the du Pont estate -- first-class, of course, with a chopper to bring him onto the estate, a vast property surrounded by woods. When the host finally appears, the man looks like a shrimp compared to his powerfully built guest; he has pasty, colorless skin, a high, whiny voice and posture that emphasizes his pear shape. The only assertive thing about him is his protuberant nose, which he invariably keeps pointed high in the air, as might a king.

Noticing all this, you suddenly do a double-take when you realize that the actor playing du Pont is Carell. Haughty through money and position, he's weak in every other way, also seemingly without friends but with a special loathing for his aged imperious mother (a commanding, still stunning Vanessa Redgrave).

From the beginning, you can't take your eyes off Carell; as if by some secret alchemy, the actor makes you believe that his character is an entirely uncharismatic man while delivering a completely charismatic performance. The combination of his thin, reedy voice with frequent heavy silences and odd vocal pacing is thoroughly unnerving. He is so socially maladroit that no one would tolerate him but for his wealth and status, although his speech habits command attention by virtue of their simple weirdness.

Installing Mark in a sumptuous guest house on his enormous estate, du Pont inspires Mark with patriotic statements, how the young man can help America be strong again and how he wants him to win at the forthcoming World Cup games in France, which he does, and then at the Seoul Olympics the following year, for which more young wrestlers are brought in for Mark to train.

But it also starts becoming evident that du Pont has something else on his mind. He touches Mark, awkwardly and tentatively, whenever he can in a "manly," congratulatory kind of way, and tries to make the young man complicit in his hatred of his mother and her horses. He soon has Mark begin to give him personal wrestling lessons, an obvious excuse for constant physical contact, and begins encouraging him to get out from under his older brother's shadow.

It isn't long before he encourages Mark to join him in taking drugs and the young man's increasing self-disgust brings him to wallow in them. Exactly what goes on between the two men behind closed doors isn't explicitly stated, but it seems quite clear, while Mark's physical condition deteriorates to the point where he can hardly compete anymore.

With the Olympics looming, du Pont suddenly turns on Mark, calling him "an ungrateful ape," and persuades the reluctant Dave to come lead the effort for the 1988 Olympics. Dave, who basically raised his younger brother after their parents died young, is an all-around terrific guy -- great at establishing rapport with others and at teaching the young hopefuls who show up at the big training center du Pont has established. Dave tries to make Mark snap out of his funk and train for the games. For their part, Mark and du Pont are no longer on speaking terms, the latter otherwise occupied in the wake of the long-awaited death of his mother and his acquisition of a prized .50-caliber machine gun.

The dynamics keep shifting from the Olympics and beyond to the entirely unprovoked climax, a very sorry affair indeed. It's a sick, twisted story, which is to the credit of the filmmakers for having made fascinating, rewarding and absolutely worth telling. The thorough exploration of the depths of human nature in this elemental story might have pleased Dostoevsky; there is the predator who overcompensates for physical weakness via psychological and financial power and two very different kinds of victims, both strong in body but one emotionally weak, the other entirely self-confident. Shrinks could have a field day with all the complicated dynamics running though these relationships, which help make the drama such a rich experience.

Miller gets it all done here; the hushed power of old money comes through loud and clear in the physical setting of the du Pont estate, the manner of the staff and the arbitrariness of the heir's decisions. The quiet rhythms of the story are at one with the ripplings of the nuances between the men; few films are as loaded with, and benefit from, churning subtext such as this one. For a story that unwinds over nearly a decade, the director, along with his writers and three editors, achieve a very fine balance both in the rhythms and overall shaping of the drama.

While Carell dominates with his unexpected performance, he is superbly backed up by his co-stars. Playing a young man who doesn't have a clue how to articulate his feelings and suffers for it, Tatum is a smoldering, festering piece of emotional raw meat, able to be manipulated this way and that by his benefactor. You feel his pain. As the older and exceptionally capable older brother, Ruffalo bestows his character with a profoundly genial nature that suggests that no one could possibly dislike this guy, much less be provoked to murder him. But he had emotional wealth, instant likeability and physical capacity, things John du Pont could never buy.


Screen Daily


The strikingly dark and tragic story of the unlikely relationship between a repressed and deeply eccentric millionaire and two champion wrestlers, Bennett Miller’s impressively sustained Foxcatcher is a wonderfully taut and thoughtfully unnerving drama likely to attract awards attention thanks to three very different lead performances that dovetail perfectly.

There is a sense of scale to the film given its astute use of locations as well as an intriguing balance between a moneyed American family whose lineage runs through generations of powerful individuals and two blue-collar men who found fame through wrestling.

While much attention will be heaped on Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose and his moody performance as troubled millionaire John Eleuthère du Pont, it is the nuanced performances by Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum that act as the perfect balance for Carell’s haughty obsessive. Director Bennett Miller’s ability to let his story gradually develop and allow complex characters to be gently revealed is perfect for this intriguing period story that gather’s momentum towards a shocking climax.

While hefty in terms of running time – it runs over two hours – there is a sense of scale to the film given its astute use of locations as well as an intriguing balance between a moneyed American family whose lineage runs through generations of powerful individuals and two blue-collar men who found fame through wrestling.

The opening scenes of archive footage of wealthy folk out fox-hunting sets the scene for the background to the fabulously wealthy du Pont family (who made their money in munitions) and the Foxcatcher estate, now overseen by heir John du Pont (Carell) and his elderly mother (Vanessa Redgrave, whose cameo performance in a couple of telling scenes is quietly memorable).

Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum) is invited by du Pont to move to the family estate to form a team to train for the 1998 Seoul Olympics at his new state-of-the-art training facility. For quiet and intense Mark it is the chance to escape from the shadow of his more outgoing and popular brother Dave (Ruffalo), with him finding a father-figure of sorts in the distracted, self-obsessed and cold du Pont.

For du Pont his obsession with wrestling is a chance to promote himself and also acts as a contrast to his mother’s passion for horses. In a rare audience with his mother she dismisses wrestling as ‘low’. There is a homo-erotic subtext to the growing relationship between du Pont and Mark (with the wrestling a very physical but non-explicit manifestation) as he also introduced him to drugs and hard drink, but du Pont’s manipulative tendency causes a rift between them when he recruits Dave to come and join the wrestling team.

The relationship between the three men gets darkly complex, with du Pont eventually taking offence to the fact that blood is stronger than water (or even the hefty wages he pays them) as Dave sides with his brother as he tries to prepare for the Olympics. But du Pont is not a man to be trifled with, with a repressed darkness gradually taking over him and eventually leading to a tragic incident.


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