365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About


Foxcatcher (2014)

I've finally found the first "award buzzing" movie of 2014 that has lived up to its hype. While there have certainly been a handful of other movies that I've found to be good, there hasn't been a movie, with the exception of maybe Nightcrawler that has lived up to the hope that I had for the movie. That has certainly changed with Bennett Miller's (Moneyball, Capote) methodical and engrossing Foxcatcher. While this movie isn't for everybody, film purists will love it. This movie is likely to garner a Best Director Academy Award and without a doubt will land Steve Carell (Crazy, Stupid, Love., Date Night) his first Best Actor nomination. Mark Ruffalo (Reservation Road, Shutter Island) likely will also earn a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. And not to be lost is the performance of Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street, 22 Jump Street) who gives the performance of his career. Three of the best performances of the year can be viewed in this film alone.

Based on the true story, Foxcatcher tells the story of gold medal winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum), his older and more accomplished brother David (Ruffalo), and oddball multi-millionaire John du Pont (Carell). Du Pont convinces a depressed and broke Mark, who spends his days training for the Olympics and trying to do whatever he can to earn enough money for a meal, to move to his massive estate and pay him a salary to train for the upcoming world competition as well as the 1988 Olympics. Won over by his kindness and generosity, Mark chooses to block out some of the initial reservations that he has about du Pont, specifically how bizarre he seems to be. Instead he sees this as an opportunity to excel. He'll have access to better equipment to train with. He will get to pick his team. He will get paid a salary which will mean he can focus more of his time to training. And he will get to eat meals that don't consist of face food burgers or Ramen noodles. It seems like an easy for Mark and it is, even though he cannot convince David to move out to du Pont's Foxcatcher Farm training facility with him.

Mark quickly realizes that Foxcatcher Farms is not like any other training facility he's ever seen and du Pont is unlike any other man he's ever met. Upon his arrival, Mark is forced to go through a very thorough background check, is told where and where he cannot go on the estate, and is given a video to watch on the history of the du Pont family. The du Pont family starting to make its fortune beginning in the early 1800's through the formation of a chemical company that was originally founded as a gunpowder mill. John inherited all of his money through a line of succession and it is unclear if he's actually ever worked or just devoted his life to his hobbies (one of which is bird watching). He's a competition enthusiast who has never had the skill to compete himself. He sees himself as a coach, a mentor, and as friend even when he has never been a coach or a mentor or had any friends in his past. It is clear that not everything functions perfectly in du Pont's mind. He is driven by insecurities. In the movie, his mental illness isn't specifically stated, but it's apparent to everyone that he is mentally unstable. Mental instability and unlimited amounts of money don't seem like the could ever be a good match.

Du Pont, either directly or indirectly, uses his money, power, and influence to win over Mark, getting the young wrestler to call Du Pont his mentor and the father he never had. He also gets him to do things that Mark would never imagined doing on his own. Mark wants to please du Pont. He knows that the only reason he is there is so that he can earn medals for the man. Du Pont knows all the right buttons to push with Mark. While this is the essence of the story (the story of du Pont driving Mark into madness), it happens too quickly for me. This was the main flaw with the movie. You could see the seeds being laid down by du Pont. That part was done great. But Mark's reactions to du Pont's psychological tactics don't progress correctly. He loses it too quickly. He goes from loving this man and wanting to do everything for him to hating him and refusing to have a conversation with him. And while the reasons why are obvious, Mark goes from loving to hating too quickly. This was the biggest problem in the movie for me.

As for the performances, as I mentioned above, they were mesmerizing. Carell will do plenty of more comedies in his career, but know, at least for me, I will always have this performance in the back of my head. This performance was perfect. There was nothing flawed about it. Each scene with Carell was uncomfortable to watch and the scenes became more and more uncomfortable as the movie progresses. He is so unbalanced that you aren't sure of what he's going to do next. Even when he is off on the side saying nothing, it's still uncomfortable. His nonverbals in this movie were just as good, if not better, than his verbals. He has no grip on reality, but, at times, is completely unaware of it. This makes him all the more dangerous. His performance, without a doubt, will earn him an Oscar nomination. I believe, at the time of this post, that he is the front-runner to win.

I haven't mentioned Ruffalo a lot in this review, but he was awesome as Mark's positive, upbeat, and protective brother. His energy is contagious and you feel better all around when he is on screen. He is likely to earn a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award. It's a little too early for me to determine if his performance is one of the five best of the year. I imagine it will be, but it's too early to say. Tatum was cast perfectly as the central protagonist. He's a good guy who went astray. I think because of the other two strong performances from the two more established actors, his gets lost a little bit. He's great, but he will get a little overlooked because the other two performances are just so wow-worthy.

I thought that Foxcatcher was a fantastic movie that totally lived up to its hype. I also understand that it is not for everyone. It is very, very slow at times. Personally, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. However, I could see the pace as being much too slow for some viewers. Also, wrestling serves as the backdrop, but I don't know if I'd call it a sports movie. Football served as a backdrop to The Blind Side, but I wouldn't have called that a sports movie because, if I recall correctly, not even a single current scene in that movie is on the football field. There is lots of wrestling in Foxcatcher so I'm leaning on calling it a sports movie. It really is more of a psychological thriller though. It is a deep character study and has wonderful performances. You'll certainly forget you are watching funnyman Carell on screen.

Plot 10/10
Character Development 10/10
Character Chemistry 10/10
Acting 10/10
Screenplay 9/10
Directing 9/10
Cinematography 9/10
Sound 9/10
Hook and Reel 9.5/10
Universal Relevance 8.5/10 (true story, but one that needs to be told? Arguable)

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