Some stories are so bizarre that they’re bound to one day make it to the big screen. The story of Foxcatcher is one of those tales. Wrestlers are a funny bunch, and to be an olympic wrestler is quite the way of life. It’s the type of life that doesn’t really seem to fit in the world of the wealthy and affluent. But in this case, that connection was made. Wealth can also sometimes hide troubles. When you live alone in a giant property, free of civilization, things can go unnoticed. Foxcatcher is a slow burn of a film that reveals the tragedy that took place as a result of these circumstances.
The film is a strange and darkly sad true story of two Olympic champion wrestling brothers, Mark and Dave Shultz, who get connected to a sad, rich and troubled older man named John du Pont. They begin training at his famous home, named Foxcatcher, and a series of events begin to lead them along a path to tragedy that has been well documented, but I won’t mention here. Mark Schultz, the younger brother, had been training with his older brother Dave, a legend, and living alone. When he is randomly contacted by a rich man named John du Pont, who he’s never heard of, he sees an opportunity to makes something for himself. He lives and trains at the Foxcatcher property, where he forms a friendship with du Pont in their goal to regain the Olympic Gold.
The performances in the film are all really good, and also very interesting in that all three primary actors had to transform their appearance and mannerisms quite significantly. Channing Tatum had to ugly up a bit as Mark Schultz, as did Mark Ruffalo as the older Dave. They both did a nice job, but I thought Ruffalo in particular was fantastic. He had the wrestler persona down to a tee, and I loved the details such as the way he carried his arms when he walked, like he was always ready to grapple some innocent bystander. Of course Steve Carrell’s departure from comedy into a dark antagonist role is the main talking point in the film, and the guy didn’t disappoint. He is really convincing and I don’t remember hating a character as much as I hated his in a while. He brings an incredible amount of subtlety and nuance to the character, and you begin to realize as the film goes on just how troubled this guy is. It is almost hard to watch, genuinely. Almost nauseating even. That makes his eventual actions all the more difficult to swallow.
Outside of the action, the film itself is a strange one. It’s extremely slow, plodding and methodical. It’s almost like it wants to hypnotize you into this somber state, where you feel no happiness, and then from this state of neutral sadness, they just pile on some more hard hitting sorrow. It creates this weird feeling, because often a shocking moment is more shocking because it contrasts a happier tone than came before it. Not here. This is sure to polarize some, as the film isn’t exactly action packed, and it doesn’t even have much dialogue. The wrestling scenes are pretty well done, but that’s about as high paced as things get. I thought it makes it’s point really well through this technique, and quite frankly I don’t think we’re supposed to like it. It felt like the filmmakers wanted us to dislike everything about this film, because it’s telling a story that we aren’t supposed to like either.
All in all, Foxcatcher was a really good film, that really makes you feel. Of course, it makes you feel very unhappy and empty, but that’s it’s goal and it does it well. It is a little longer than it needs to be I’d say, especially due to it’s slow pace. Overall, it isn’t groundbreaking stuff, and it was a tier below some of the best films of the year, but it’s well acted, well written and packs a strong punch. A great first villain for Carrell also, and it’ll be interesting to see if he continues this trend going forward.