Apr 13, 2015

[Movies] Foxcatcher (2014)

Foxcatcher was definitely one of the stranger movies to come out of the recent award season. It was one of those movies that was certainly impressive for different reasons and you know that they were out to accomplish something pretty serious here. But at the same time it felt like something a little tiring or at least a little too dark for my tastes. Then again, it's hard to wrap one's head around the fact that these events generally happened and so some of the bad stuff that happened has to be viewed through a different lens.

I'm no Channing Tatum expert, but I feel like this was probably his most serious project to date. He tends to get involved more in romance pieces or comical action movies and this was just an entirely different animal. At first I kind of hoped that this movie would somewhat lighter.

But then again, comedies do not typically make it far in the various awards competitions so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. And the result is a movie of a different color entirely.

Synopsis: Foxcatcher is a 2014 biographical crime drama movie directed by Bennett Miller. The screenplay had been written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman as roughly based on the events related to John E. du Pont's efforts to provide support for US wrestlers in 1986.

Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is man who has always felt like he has been overshadowed by his brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Both have medals for their wrestling achievements, but Dave still seems to be the one more folks talk about. Thus it feels particularly special when millionaire philanthropist John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) contacts Mark to join his wrestling team, Team Foxcatcher, to train for the World Championship. The estate would fully pay for his training time and would support all efforts to get him to where he needs to be.

Du Pont also encourages Mark to recruit his brother Dave. But joining Team Foxcatcher means moving to Pennsylvania and Dave does not want to uproot his family for this effort. So Mark goes to Pennsylvania alone and his career starts to pick up under du Pont's mentorship. But at the same time du Pont starts introducing Mark to more exotic vices while continually harping on the need to find a way to recruit Dave into the team.

The movie is rather...still, a lot of the times. And what I mean by this is how it's often very silent with little to no musical scoring and so you end up watching everyone walk around a lot. A lot of the movie relies on Channing Tatum and he tends to act in a singular manner. It generally suits the role of a young athlete of limited intelligence and/or self-esteem and one who easily falls under the sway of a figure as powerful as du Pont.

But I suppose the overall tone of the piece was meant to capture the mood of things as a whole. This is not a happy story and du Pont's interests in wrestling borders on obsession. The decision to film things in this manner is something to be respected for sure - the director had a clear vision for things. I just wish it was a little easier to understand since there's a lot of whispering and mumbling in terms of dialog that was still hard to understand despite the lack of music in most scenes.

I know the make-up work for Steve Carell and others was done in order to make them better resemble the real-life personalities involved in this story. But given the lack of familiarity with the figures and the nature of the make-up done, at times I found it a little distracting. Mark Ruffalo was difficult to recognize in a good way though - the full beard kind of worked.

I'll concede that maybe my lack of interest in the end may have also been related to my lack of interest in sports for the most part. This is not some big elaborate crime with build-up and growing tension. This is the tale of a strange man who indulges these wrestlers and then has a bit of a surprise twist at the end that could not have been easily predicted beforehand. As much as this movie is meant to be a study of these events to some degree, I don't think we got to learn much more du Ponts motivations other than a side angle related to his mother not approving of his interest in wrestling.

Foxcatcher is a dark tale that is impressive in how well it captures the event but it doesn't saymuch else beyond that. I kind of wish it had more of a story to tell or maybe a stand to make as opposed to just this effort to be an impartial observer with very limited facts. So the movie gets 3 montages of old fox hunting videos out of a possible 5.


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