Foxcatcher NYFF Review: Wrestling For Oscar Gold

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Foxcatcher plays like a horror movie for most of it’s runtime. Unsettling from the opening shot onward, this is a chilling tale. But, to achieve this feeling, it abandons some of its humanity.

Many of you may remember the not so long ago events of the film, but for those of you who don’t, we follow wrestling Olympic gold medalist Mark and David Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo, respectively). Mark is hungry for more, with little else aside from his Gameboy in his life to excite him. David is a loving brother trying to coach Mark into another Olympics. Mark is eventually called by John du Pont (Steve Carell) to come to his estate, Foxcatcher farms.

John is instantly frightening, with Carell giving this role everything he has to transform from his comedic roots to something truly terrifying. The film doesn’t hide how it wants you to feel about him. You’re supposed to feel unsafe around him. It becomes even more of a mystery once John starts coaching the hopeful athletes. It’s clear how inexperienced he is both as a coach and as a wrestler. Why is this what he’s doing with his life? He has rooms in his estate dedicated to wrestling, but looks pathetic in the ring himself. Carell is as physically committed to the role as he is mentally. This makes for a true transformation. The type of transformation that wins people Oscars.

That said, I hope Carell’s brilliance doesn’t overshadow Tatum’s own commitment. His character finds a different way to be unsettling, making his initial pairing with John feel meaningful, and their later falling out justified. Mark isn’t the same brand of crazy as John. Once we start to realize that, the film connects on an emotional level. Foxcatcher doesn’t give us much to connect to until our lead starts seeing what we see in John du Pont.

From there, the film is engaging, rather than the simple creepiness of the first half. How these characters weave around each other in the second half, leading to the crescendo of a climax, is what makes this film more than a performance piece.

But it does take too long to get there. The deliberately slow pacing certainly elevates the moments that work, but some of it feels so detached. Even when the film isn’t emotionally engaging, Carell and Tatum are still worth watching, making this dark film always watchable, if not always good. Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

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