Foxcatcher is an incredible true story of madness, obsession, jealousy and Olympic glory. Steve Carell stars as John du Pont, the eccentric multimillionaire with a passion for wrestling who starts Foxcatcher, a wrestling academy, at his home.
Du Pont recruits gold medal winner Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) away from his brother, fellow gold medalist Dave (Mark Ruffalo), and their hometown base of training to come to Foxcatcher in Pennsylvania in the hopes of emerging from his sibling’s shadow and winning the highest honor in the sport all on his own.
Immediately, bells should have gone off for Mark. But as Tatum plays him, he has lived under his brother’s shadow and du Pont hits all the right nerves to pull him away. Mark also is not blind to the mind-blowing wealth and the lifestyle that the du Pont chemical fortune heir lives.
It is a lure that will prove tragic.
Since Foxcatcher premiered on the festival circuit the talk has been Carell and his incredible thespian transformation from laugh maker to risk taker.
Sure, there’s a physical metamorphosis with Carell looking more haggard, aged and there’s that prosthetic nose. But his alteration goes much, much deeper. Carell plays him as somebody who himself has lived under a shadow of immense pressure and that is his family history. His mother (Vanessa Redgrave) weighs on him like an anvil and she does not approve of a sport like wrestling. And that motivates du Pont even more. And yes, Carell goes toe-for-toe with Redgrave and that is saying something. The Oscar buzz is true.
The thing is, however, the “best actor” in Foxcatcher is Ruffalo.
He inhabits, lives and breathes Dave and plays him like a man who is always looking out for his brother, but too is taken in by the wealth, opportunity and passion for the sport that du Pont offers. When Ruffalo arrives at Foxcatcher, it is the spark that sets this entire tragedy into its explosive mode.
And orchestrating the entire thing is director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball). He has taken a relatively recent headline-grabbing story and made it his own. He makes dozens of wise choices with the story. The pace is slow, yes. But it is on purpose. If you’ve been around East Coast old money, lives can move at a snail’s pace. That was a conscious decision and Miller should be rewarded for it with another Oscar nod.
He also chooses to focus on the intertwining of the characters, the richness of his actors and their portrayals of this triangle of winning passion that won’t end even remotely quietly. There was a “thrilling” conclusion to this story in real life… one that was built up with tension over 48 hours.
Miller instead decides to close out his tale, just as he started it -- with a pace that is deliberate and dedicated to storytelling at the highest order with three actors giving the most riveting performances of their collective careers.
Our Foxcatcher review also has to salute Tatum. He has stretched beyond his comfort zone with this film. It might be easy to think of the muscle-bound star as a no-brainer choice to play a superstar wrestling Olympian. But this character cuts much, much deeper and darker than that.
Just like Miller’s film itself.