Based on a true story, Foxcatcher tells the story of Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), an Olympic gold-winning wrestler, who gets contacted by John du Pont (Steve Carell), a millionaire wrestling enthusiast, who wants to train Mark to win the world championship.
It might not sound like one of the most disturbing and horrifying movies of the year but it really is. Writers E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman did such a terrific job adapting this story. Their screenplay will come off as boring and slow for a lot of people, but it really sucks you into these character’s lives so when something “big” happens it really hits you like a shot to the gut.
One major problem with the screenplay does come from the lack of focus. Mark and John are definitely the two main characters, but Frye and Futterman had difficulty keeping the two in the spotlight. Either Mark is front and center while John creeps in the shadows or John is in the spotlight while Mark disappears from view. Instead of feeling like Mark’s story, John’s story, or Mark and John’s story, it feels disjointed.
Maybe that feeling was intentional. Director Bennett Miller went for a very uncomfortable tone here for which he deserves an unbelievable amount of praise. Miller is easily one of the best directors working today and Foxcatcher may be his best work. Like I said earlier, Frye and Futterman’s screenplay will bore some because Miller left in a lot of seemingly unnecessary scenes. But those scenes of characters messing around and not moving the plot forward slowly dragged the audience into these character’s lives. So when that shot in the gut happens, you really feel it. Brilliant work by Miller.
Speaking of brilliance, Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, and Mark Ruffalo are exceptional here. Tatum takes the “dumb” role he’s oh so good at and takes it to a whole new level. Mark Schultz isn’t dumb, but Mark is a big confused guy and Tatum brings that and adds an unbelievable amount of emotion when needed. It’s an outstanding performance and it’s a shame Tatum is being overshadowed by Carell for an Oscar.
Yes, Steve Carell is phenomenal here. Remember Brick from Anchorman or Michael Scott from The Office? Now watch Foxcatcher. The hilarious and adorable Steve Carell is terrifying in this movie. From his voice to his body movements, Carell fits so well with this character that it’s a wonder to behold.
A final shoutout goes to an unrecognizable Mark Ruffalo. Also being unfortunately overshadowed by Carell, Ruffalo adds a very “human” presence to this movie by being the only down-to-earth character out of the three men mentioned here. It may not be the most demanding performance (especially when compared to Tatum and Carell) but Ruffalo shines with what he’s given.
Even with a lack of focus, Foxcatcher shines as one of 2014’s best. Tatum, Carell, and Ruffalo dominate, Frye and Futterman did a commendable job with the screenplay, and Miller solidified himself as a movie-making master. Foxcatcher isn’t for everyone though, so you should see it to have an opinion during the Oscars.