Sunday, December 28, 2014

Movie Review: "Foxcatcher" (2014)

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Director: Bennett Miller
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 14 minutes

Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) are wrestlers, brother, and Olympic gold medalists. Dave is considered a legend in the sport of wrestling and Mark has lived in his shadow. Dave works as a coach at a university and Mark struggles to get by. He sometimes does personal appearances at elementary schools at $20 a pop, since, at the time, there wasn't much opportunity for wrestlers to make money in their sport outside of coaching. One day, Mark is contacted by an eccentric billionaire named John E. du Pont (Steve Carell), who is part of the famous du Pont family. John wants Mark to come to Foxcatcher ranch and help train the U.S. wrestling team for the 1987 World Championships and the 1988 Olympics in Japan. He offers Mark a huge salary to have him coach, as well as a state-of-the-art wrestling facility. Mark agrees and goes on to win the world championship. Shortly after, due to drugs and other factors, Mark and John have a falling out and John brings Dave in to coach at Foxcatcher ranch. This sets off a series of tragic events as John's behavior becomes increasingly bizarre and unstable. 

"Foxcatcher" has received a lot of hype as far as the acting goes and it did not disappoint in that aspect. Steve Carell takes a huge leap away from his usual and expected comedic lead actor role, and though it is not the first time he has done this, it is the first time that he has done so with such conviction, giving a powerhouse performance as John du Pont. His appearance and speech changed, Carell is recognizable as his own person, but unrecognizable in this movie, meaning we don't see Carell, we only see John du Pont. His performance is simply fantastic. Carell brings to life minor details in du Pont's character, little minutiae, and ticks that du Pont really had as a person, and makes them front and center to his bizarre personality. His performance definitely award-worthy, though this year boasts some stiff competition. The good acting does not end with Carell, though, as both Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum were able to convey and display all of the mannerisms, behaviors, and body posturing that the Schultz brothers have in real life as wrestlers often do. Tatum, who is often more muscly by nature, maintained his fit form but also exhibited a large under-bite and prominent chin. Ruffalo, a former wrestler himself who now typically has a smaller build, gained a lot of muscle mass for the part of Dave. In an effort to truly capture the spirit of the brothers as wrestlers, Tatum and Ruffalo both trained for many months prior to and during the filming of the movie, and Tatum even busted his eardrum during one take where he told Ruffalo to smack him and get it over with. These minute details, to us, show tremendous amounts of painstaking detail in wanting to get the persons portrayed just right, and for the better.

Many people may not have heard about this film until it started getting award attention, though BigJ and I were both really looking forward to it. BigJ has watched the UFC since it began, and Mark Schultz actually fought in an early UFC event, so he was familiar with him already. Knowing the story ahead of time, nothing was a spoiler to us as BigJ told me pretty much everything there was to know about the Schultz brothers since he is so into MMA and amateur wrestling. That being said, despite all of its great acting, "Foxcatcher" is a pretty dull movie and is almost completely carried by the acting alone. The beginning of the movie initially starts out strong, showing how Mark ate, slept and breathed every single minute of his life for wrestling. At the time when he was an Olympian, the sport of wrestling did not pay very much outside of coaching, and there was no other way for these world-class athletes to earn money in their craft. Though there are good individual elements scattered throughout the movie, the overall feel of it is rather boring and drudges along to its ultimate climax. A little bit of the suspense may have been eliminated for us knowing the true story's outcome, but this does not take away from the fact that this film moves very slowly and is not all that enthralling as a whole. Plus, the filmmaker made a strange decision to compress about 9 years worth of their history into what seems to be less than 2 years. This squeezing of the real lifetime frame made it seem like John du Pont just snapped one day and went crazy, where he should have never been trusted in the first place. In actuality, du Pont slowly drifted into his madness and paranoia over a longer time period.

Overall, the acting makes this movie as successful as it is. Without these 3 actors, or even if they were changed, it could have been a really awful movie, but they carry it an save it from being horrible.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 86%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching"American Hustle"

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