Director Bennett Miller is no stranger to creating successful films, with Moneyball and Capote already on his filmography – both heavily nominated with Oscars. Plus having the credit of leading (the late and great) Phillip Seymour Hoffman to his best lead actor award as Truman Capote. Miller’s newest film, Foxcatcher, is heading in the same direction with Oscar-bait written all over it. But is it worthy?
Foxcatcher tells the true story of the dark and fascinating relationship between an eccentric multi-millionaire and two champion wrestlers. Portrayed by Channing Tatum, Olympic gold medal winner, Mark Schultz is invited by wealthy heir, John du Pont (Steve Carrell) to help train a team of wrestlers for the 1988 Seoul Olympics at his state of the art facilities.
Schultz jumps at the opportunity, hoping to focus on his own training and to finally jump out of his older brother’s shadow, Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo). Fuelled by paranoia and alienation, the trio is propelled into an ultimatum of tragedy.
Given the nature of the story, the film is reflectively creepy and can be rather uncomfortable viewing – but all in its favour, as it sets the atmosphere in a dark pyscho palette of entertainment.
Clocking in at just over two hours, the fruitful story does not urge to ripen quickly, but rather methodically and frustratingly; pacing is slow, some silent scenes drag as the narrative progressively builds to a devastating melodrama. It’s seems like a long journey.
To its advantage, and probably one of the main discussions of Foxcatcher, is that all of the lead actors physically transform for their characters. Which, as well as being impeccably mounted are performed incredibly.
Steve Carrell, who stars as John du Pont, is in fact, almost unrecognisable as he covers his face in prosthetic and artificial aging. It’s a performance unlike Carrell has ever done before, given his comedic background and often silly roles. It’s odd casting, but he is serious, mesmerizing and just wonderful throughout.
Likewise, Channing Tatum is also committed to the role of transformation as he adds Hulk-like biceps and triceps to his already overly-toned body. He shuffles, not walks, and adjusts his Hollywood-lovable face to a bulked and bullied jawline that looks remarkably like the real Schultz.
Overall, it is impressive work - yet drags as the Shakespearian level of story slowly takes place and develops.