There’s always at least one “Awards contender” movie that I just don’t get, spoiler alert, it’s this one.
“Foxcatcher” is the true story of multimillionaire John Du Pont and how his love for wrestling led him to work with the Schultz brothers to develop the US wrestling team during the 80s. Steve Carell plays the eccentric and wealthy Du Pont and Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum step in as wrestlers Dave and Mark Schultz. The movie especially follows the relationships between these three men and the ominous undertones of mental illness and the dangers of wealth and privilege. So I’ve already given away that I wasn’t as huge a fan of this as most seem to be, but I do get why critics are raving.
First of all, the story of these men in real life is interesting, surprising, and full of dynamic relationship issues. Brothers competing in the same field, a son trying to break from his aging mother, a man trying to buy greatness in a field he’s never excelled in. All of these are themes and character development pieces that make for an intriguing story. But really, any discussion on Foxcatcher has to come down to the three main performances that might just make or break the movie for you. And Carell, Tatum, and Ruffalo throw themselves full force into some very interesting portrayals. I’m not sure if they are as great as many people say, but they certainly are interesting. If I had to pick a favorite here, it’s easily Ruffalo. His work as Dave Schultz is complete, engaging, and immersive. You never feel his acting, you just believe he is this person, fully realized and living on screen. But Carrell and Tatum aren’t.
I mean they aren’t awful, I wouldn’t call it bad acting by any stretch, and maybe it’s just standing next to Ruffalo’s great work you can see the seams more clearly. But as much as they pour themselves into these parts, and they really do go all out, I just never bought either of them completely. There was always this twinge of playacting to their performance, meaning that it just never felt completely realized on the screen. Carell, even more than Tatum, who by the way does have a couple really remarkable scenes. I just always felt like I was watching Steve Carell with a fake nose rather than an actual character I could give myself over to. The end result of which threw the pacing of the movie off so much for me that it felt slow and methodical in a way that tip toed awful close to being boring. I imagine if the acting works for you it’s a completely different experience, but my brain just wouldn’t go with it, and so I found myself disinterested. I also think part of this is due to the drawn out structure of the script, which, if you know the climax of the true story already, may seem more pressing. But if you are unaware, the whole thing feels like a horror movie where you aren’t sure what you are supposed to be afraid of. I won’t give away the end, but by the time this movie gets there, I’m just not sure it’s done enough to earn the emotions it wants to pull from you.
At the end of the day, “Foxcatcher” is a swing for the fences acting extravaganza. Though Mark Ruffalo hits it out of the park, and Channing Tatum makes good contact, it just felt like as hard as Steve Carell was swinging it never quite got there. And yes I know I should probably be using a wrestling metaphor instead of a baseball one, so I’ll just say the movie’s story never quite pinned me down enough to earn anything more than a C+