Sunday, 11 January 2015
Review: Foxcatcher (UK Cert 15)
Wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his older brother David (Mark Ruffalo) both won gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. In 1987, Mark is invited to the home of millionaire philanthropist John E. du Pont (Steve Carell), who wants Mark and David to join his private wrestling team with a view to training for the world championships and even the 1988 Olympics. Mark agrees, but David refuses as he doesn't wish to uproot his wife and young family. Mark's decision to go underneath du Pont's wing have far-reaching and ultimately tragic repercussions for the Schultz family.
Director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) has created a thoughful, absorbing, quiet character drama with a trio of strong central performances.
Steve Carell's performance as du Pont is little short of breathtaking. It's a very unshowy, understated performance, unlike anything I've seen him give before. du Pont is a loner, an eccentric, a man in desperate desire for validation, he wants respect and wants to be liked. He has the money to do what he pleases and thinks people can just be bought. You can't help but sympathise with him initially, before the obsessional nature comes out. I don't necessarily buy into the homoerotic angle some reviewers have seen in the relationship between du Pont and Mark- I see it more as that between master and servant (or, more accurately, owner and property). Whilst Carell is undoubtedly a brilliant comic actor, Foxcatcher proves he's got some real dramatic acting chops too.
Channing Tatum gives a decent performance as Mark. Physically imposing but also emotionally damaged, he finds a father figure in du Pont which causes some tension and estrangement with his brother (who was de facto father). You don't often get to see what's going on behind Mark's eyes, there's little development or exposition which is something of an issue. Mark Ruffalo is great as David, a caring and kind family man, always on the look-out for his little brother and there throughout it all, despite some less-than-brotherly behaviour from Mark. This is a performance without a shred of ego to it and he's rightfully garnered a lot of awards praise for it.
Outside of the central trio, there are two other performances of note. Sienna Miller was unrecognisable in her role as David's wife Nancy, to the point where I only recognised her from her name in the end credits. She didn't have much to do but was a great foil to Ruffalo. Similarly, Vanessa Redgrave- a woman who could beguile by reading the phone book- has a great cameo as du Pont's domineering and disapproving mother Jean. She only has a handful of scenes, but the pivotal one where she calls wrestling 'low' is an absolute highlight.
The real Mark Schultz went on a Twitter rant slamming certain aspects of the film recently. This is based on a true story. The operative word there being 'based'. It's not a documentary. Certain things have been changed to fulfil a dramatic need. What you do have is a strong, well-made film telling a gripping story and one I thoroughly enjoyed.
Rating: 4 out of 5