Here’s the ultimate problem with Foxcatcher: it’s a masterfully slow, creepy short film trapped in the body of a full length movie. The tone of the movie is so beautifully quiet and bleak, and the performances so out of this world, you may find yourself thinking that this is one of the best movies of the year. But after 45 minutes or so, when you’re eagerly anticipating where the film goes next, that’s when you realize— there is no next. This is cinematic normcore. They took a sensational story and two great actors (really three— Mark Ruffalo, whoa) and dressed it all up to look so mundane, so glaringly average as to be shocking. And it works—it IS shocking— until you realize that that novelty is as deep as the movie goes.
Foxcatcher (which, like Bennett Miller’s other films—Moneyball, Capote— is based on true events) is about a lot of things. Brotherly love and brotherly failings. Father figures. Really sh*tty father figures. Haves and have nots. At the center of the story we have two men, one—John du Pont (Steve Carell), a billionaire heir to a chemical dynasty, who seems to have everything, but in reality has absolutely nothing. He has no friends, no family, save his so-distant-she-practically-doesn’t-exist mother, played by a terrifyingly disapproving Vanessa Redgrave. He doesn’t even seem to have any sense of his own identity beyond a cold war patriotism that drives him to fill his isolated mansion with young Olympic wrestlers. The most Olympic of whom is Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), who appears to have nothing (when we meet him he’s showing his gold medal at school assemblies for $20 a pop), but in that George Bailey fashion actually has so much more than du Pont. Because Mark at least has his brother David (Ruffalo). These are brothers who have deep rooted issues that they have no way of communicating, but they have a physical language in wrestling that is as intimate as it is violent. More so, probably.
The best parts of Foxcatcher are when we don’t fully understand what is happening. When Mark is summoned to this eccentric (that’s one hell of a euphemism) stranger’s mansion, he is lost. And we, seeing the story through his eyes, are also lost. The story is exciting, and scary. Du Pont’s moods change rapidly, giving us glimpses of a dangerous, confused, deeply buried undercurrent. But as the story goes on, the excitement wears off and it turns out there’s nothing there to take its place. There is a stark, disturbing tone, and there are amazing performances. From the moment Foxcatcher premiered at Cannes, it was Oscar Steve Carell this and Oscar Channing Tatum that. And for good reason. These two are absolutely incredible, and deserve all the hype (even if they are mildly bogged down by their own makeup and prosthetics and general caricatures). This is likely to be a huge turning point for Carell. He makes the absolute most of every excruciatingly long, ultra-creepy silence (of which there are many). He sits in the silence, in the tension, and never once eases up. He owns this movie. This is his One Hour Photo. But that’s pretty much all this film is. It’s a vehicle for two men to showcase new sides of themselves. And for that, it is spectacular. But if you are expecting anything more, you will leave disappointed.
Vivian Kane was also totally happy with the costume design for this movie. There was a whole lot of thigh meat up on that screen.