Foxcatcher Wrestles with Emotions

At one point in Bennett Miller’s poignant and powerful Foxcatcher, John du Pont declares the importance of a coach, “A coach is a father, a coach is a mentor, a coach has great power on an athlete’s life”. While these words definitely sum up what your typical coach/athlete relationship is like, this film does more than enough to separate itself from the traditional sports drama. In this moment, this quote really sums up du Pont’s greatest delusion. Foxcatcher is a chilling tale of people hopingĀ for greatness. They desire to be heroes, winners, and champions, but in the end no matter how much they give they feel like it will never be their best. This constant feeling of failure looms large for du Pont and his athlete, Mark Schultz, and it is ultimately the start of their own self-hatred. Led by terrific performances by the three leads Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo, Bennett Miller has created one of the best films of the year that shows you the pain of two disturbed and lost individuals.

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

Foxcatcher, which is based on true events, follows the unlikely relationship between Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), and the multi-millionaire heir to the du Pont estate, John du Pont (Steve Carell). When John du Pont invites Mark to his estate in order to offer him the chance to prepare and train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Mark eagerly accepts the offer. The two develop a special relationship that is driven by the need to win. Mark hopes to step out of his brother’s (Mark Ruffalo) shadow, and du Pont is motivated by wanting to be respected by all, especially his disapproving mother. However, their relationship soon turns toxic and not even winning Gold can prevent a tragic outcome.

Foxcatcher is a brilliant picture that is transfixed in the horrors of two disturbed individuals. Bennett Miller beautifully captures the self-implosion of these individuals by coldly depicting their desires and loneliness. It is a slow burning psychological thriller that is full of intensity, emotion, and controlled chaos. There is searing tension in nearly every scene and it is accompanied by melancholy and desperation. This is probably Miller’s most subtle film, but it still manages to be his most haunting. Thanks to his observant nature behind the camera, Miller subtly controls the irony and heartbreak in the story. He holds up a mirror to our success-driven society, the class systems, and the corrupted American dream. By doing this, Miller creates a gripping dark atmosphere that makes you ache for the characters and the world they are living in.

Along with Miller’s excellent camerawork, there is great complexity and psychology thanks to the screenplay written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman. Together they have created a film that is interested in exploring the constant pursuit of success. Winning is the only option in their world, and there is simply no consolation. It is much more than just a sport or just a game. For these characters wresting and succeeding in competition is the only way to live. Its the only world Mark and Dave know and it is basically their only form of communication. As for du Pont, winning Gold is finally proving your worth. Nothing was ever good enough for his mother, but being a “coach” for a Gold medalist is something you can’t refute. These characters, especially Mark and John, are damaged individuals who have been abandoned and abused. Emotionally and physically they crave the same thing. They want admiration and success because they are both very lonely and are constantly feeling inadequate thanks to the success of their own family. It is a harrowing portrait into the mindset of lonely men who strive for something they cannot obtain.

Arguably the best part of the film, and the one aspect that keeps you glued to the screen are the transformative performances from the three leads. It is an extremely well-acted film and it just might be the best acted film of the year. Each of the actors are compelling, gripping, and astounding in their performances. Funny man Steve Carell, who has given fine dramatic performances in the past, gives the best performance of his career. He is creepily effective and scary convincing as the disturbed John du Pont. He truly embodies du Pont and gives an honest performance that showcases du Pont’s delusional mindset. He hits every note and never misses a beat. Channing Tatum also gives his best performance of his career by getting extremely physical and personal with Mark. It is a different side to Tatum that you have not seen before, and he certainly impresses. There is a lot of pain, anger, jealousy, and hatred that is underneath waiting to boil over. Tatum really gets the nuance of the character that even when he gives a stare in the mirror or begins to walk into a building your heart begins to ache for him. Now, this leaves the always great Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo delivers another terrific performance that proves once again that he is one of the most consistent working actors today. Ruffalo definitely plays the most normal character of the film but because of his charisma and earnest personality he becomes the emotional backbone of the film. By relating to his compassion and warmth we are then allowed to connect and genuinely feel for Mark Schultz and even du Pont. It is an understated performance but a performance that is crucial for making this movie work so well.

Foxcatcher is simply one of the best films of the year. Bennett Miller has presented a dark look into the minds of similar yet different people. It is powerful, poignant, and it makes you sad for society. It grapples with you and ends up staying with you long after you leave the theater.

The cast includes: Steve Carell (Crazy, Stupid, Love), Channing Tatum (22nd Jump Street), Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers), Sienna Miller (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra), and Vanessa Redgrave (Mission: Impossible). It was written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman and directed by Bennett Miller (Moneyball).

3.5 out of 4 stars

-By Louie Coruzzolo

In case you missed our video review for this week, check it out below:

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