If movies were months, Foxcatcher would be the perfect February.
Stark and sterile as the winter’s end, Foxcatcher is a frosty film, conveying disappointment, power, violence, and regret in a whisper. From director Bennett Miller, whose previous credits include Capote and Moneyball, Foxcatcher is a true crime drama based on the infamous John du Pont, heir to the Dupont company fortune, and his endeavor to coach and fund an Olympian-caliber wrestling team, including former Olympian gold medalist brothers David and Mark Schultz, who he invites to live on his private estate. The movie has been hyped for both the physical transformation and the against-type portrayal of du Pont by Steve Carrell, best known for his more comedic roles, including Michael Scott on The Office.
Rather than opting for splashy drama and overstated sappiness, Foxcatcher manages to gradually build momentum with its persisting feeling of dread. The less known about the actual facts surrounding the wrestling team, the better, as the film works in gradually unraveling small moments and compounding them into fully fleshed out characters.
The film features a trio of male performers: Carrell as du Pont, Channing Tatum as younger brother Mark Schultz, and Mark Ruffalo as David Schultz, whose natural talents and affable personality cast a constant shadow on his younger brother’s achievements. Though Carrell's name is making rounds as Oscar fodder, all three men step up and deliver career-high performances.
One of the most outstanding and surprising successes of the film was actually in the wrestling – the element I was probably the least interested in – which felt more like choreographed, painful dances. Tatum and Ruffalo both adopted smooth, powerful, and distinctive ways of carrying themselves during wrestling scenes and in every-day-life moments. Tatum, true to his character, moved with stiffness and brute force, while Ruffalo's movements looked fluid and controlled.
Foxcatcher may not be for everyone, particularly those who prefer fast-paced psychological thrillers, but the slow burn approach worked really well for the subject matter at hand. The film takes its time pulling viewers through its chilling narrative, which works so hard at avoiding clichés or embellishment, at times it can even border on sterile.
Unfortunately, perhaps due to the nature of the story, there is a fairly large gap in the narrative when it comes to the relationship of Dave Schultz and John du Point, which I found myself wanting to learn more about. But overall, Foxcatcher is a unique character study, devoted to its dreadful and chilling tone. It gets it right by trusting all three performers to succeed in acting against type with success.