DVD Review – Foxcatcher (2015)

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An array of brilliant performances takes centre stage in this unnerving, and rather chilling character study.

Based on the devastatingly true story of real-life Olympic Gold-winning wrestlers Mark, and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo), the film follows the brothers as they are recruited by multimillionaire John E. du Pont (an almost unrecognizable Steve Carell) to form an all-star wrestling team for the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul.

The film has undertones of Arnofsky’s The Wrestler, and it’s clear to see similarities between Mickey Rourke’s eponymous Randy ‘the Ram’ Robinson and Tatum’s Mark. They are both undeniably lonely characters that fear that they are past their peak in wrestling (albeit two very different sides of wrestling). Mark’s constant awkwardness and misplaced patriotism is also almost as pathetic as an overweight Jake La Motta in Raging Bull.

Director Bennett Miller is no stranger to non-fiction; his two previous films have both centred on real-life events, in the form of Capote, and Moneyball. The other similarity that can be traced through all three of Miller’s feature-length outings is his ability to get the very best out of his cast. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), Brad Pitt, and Jonah Hill (Moneyball) all put in, arguably career-best performances.

Foxcatcher is no different. Channing Tatum is excellent as the socially awkward and forever brooding Mark, and Ruffalo is equally excellent as family man Dave. But it is Steve Carell’s performance that steals the show; he portrays Du Pont’s timid nature, his great desire for maternal love, and his, at times, almost homoerotic relationship with the Schulz brothers to perfection. His transformation is also staggering; the actor spent three hours every morning of shooting being made-up and fitted with a prosthetic nose, and he is practically unrecognizable. Carell’s transformation is not restricted to the physical either, for an actor that has become synonymous with the comedy genre; it’s extremely impressive, and refreshing to see him flourish in a significantly more dramatic role.

Whilst Miller’s cast excels, his narrative seems to fall short. Foxcatcher is an unbelievably dark piece of filmmaking, it is uncomfortable right from the outset, but it never really seems to go anywhere, it constantly feels as if it’s building to a climax that never truly arrives. The film’s ending is indeed its darkest and most dramatic point, but despite its tragic content, it still feels like an anti-climax. You feel as if you’ve been waiting too long for the inevitable ending, this is especially true if you are familiar with the real-life events that the film follows (I wouldn’t recommend finding out before watching as it would only make the two hour plus wait seem longer).

Foxcatcher is not an enjoyable watch, but that’s fine because it’s not exactly supposed to be. It’s an eerie and uncomfortable ride that, whilst lacking in a truly engaging narrative, offers an exhibition of magnificent acting.

Josh Hall

Genre:Drama, Sports | Distributor: Entertainment One | DVD Release Date: 18th May 2015 (UK) | Rating: 15 | Director: Bennett Miller | Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller | Buy: [DVD]