Director: Bennett Miller
Writers: E Max Frye, Dan Futterman
Starring: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller
For the 87th Academy Awards Foxcatcher has been nominated for an impressive five Oscars: Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay and Best Makeup. Interestingly, despite these major nominations (and its expansion from five to ten potential nominees) Foxcatcher still failed to receive a nomination for Best Picture. The reason why it did not receive this nomination in spite of the other ones is simple: Foxcatcher is a prime example of a whole that does not equal the value of its constituent parts. The acting from everyone involved is phenomenal; the cinematography is stark and moody; the music is unintrusive yet evocative. Isolating each element of this film we see masters of their craft working at the peak of their abilities. Somehow though, the confluence of these craftsmen is a sagging, delivering an overlong and somewhat pretentious affair that doesn’t test its viewers intellectually or emotionally as much as it tests their patience.
Based on a true story, Foxcatcher tells the tale of Olympic gold medal winning wrestlers and brothers Mark and David Schultz, played by Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo respectively. One day, millionaire John DuPont (Steve Carell) invites Mark to live with him in his Pennsylvania estate wherein he intends to both fund and coach the U.S. Olympic wrestling team. Naturally, DuPont proves to be a poor excuse for a coach and the relationship between the brothers and their boss is tested to tragic consequences.
The acting on display in the film proves to be its strongest aspect, with Carell offering the most ostentatious performance of the three leads. The recognition he is receiving is rightly deserved, his character both slimy and pathetic in equal measure, with lines like “Most of my friends call me Eagle or Golden Eagle” triggering memories of his role as Michael Scott in The Office. He is almost unrecognisable in his character, fitted with a giant hooked nose. One might suggest if edited differently the film could almost pass for a comedy. Somewhat unexpectedly, it is Tatum who delivers the best performance of the film. As Mark Schultz he lumbers through the movie like a neanderthal desperately seeking approval from his brother and his new boss, providing the emotional heart of the film.
It is the tone of Foxcatcher that really proves to be its weakest element, simply for the fact that it has only one: dreary. The film is relentless in its dour severity. From the first to the last frame we are subjected to a constant wave of people being unhappy and a director that seems to love spending five minutes too long shooting it. The final runtime, which clocks in at at just over two hours, is also obnoxious; a good thirty minutes could have been shaved off without any detriment to the overall film and would have been welcomed by my bum.
Foxcatcher isn’t a write off in any sense. There are much worse films that someone can subject themselves to over the weekend. The poorer qualities of the film are manifested in the disappointment that it engenders. On paper it looks strong; the trailer promised something great and the awards it has been both nominated for and won indicate a modern classic. Yet it is disposable, portentous mediocrity that serves more as a showcase for its talented crewmembers than a comprehensible, engaging story. It isn’t by any stretch unwatchable, but relative to expectations and outside validation, it’s a turkey.