In another “based on a true story” movie to hit theaters this season, we have the story of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz and the Foxcatcher training center for young wrestlers. Steve Carell has already been on the radar for Oscar awards from this performance, so I went out of my way to find a theater that was playing this.
Did it live up to that hype?
The gist. Channing Tatum stars as Mark Schultz, coming off a victory at the 1984 Olympics. Him and his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) run a training center and are happy, until a millionaire eccentric named John du Pont wants to recruit them to run his training center. Tatum’s Mark Schultz moves out to the camp while his brother Dave stays with his family and denies the offer. The story then takes a dark turn as we slowly see the inner workings of du Pont, who is invested in this goal and will do whatever it takes.
The best thing about this movie is the performances. Carell is getting the most attention from this, as he’s done the most blatant transformation, both physically and personality-wise. There are moments you see the comedic-side of Carell but it’s perfectly awkward and almost terrifying when coming from du Pont.
I would argue that the best performance of the film however is Tatum. It’s easy to forget what sort of talent this guy has, as he’s been doing a lot of comedies recently, but this movie really shows off his range. He spent a lot of time with the real Mark Schultz (even training to wrestle) and you can tell. This is undoubtedly the best performance of his career.
As soon as this movie begins, you know it’s going to be a slow burn until something gives. The tension is perfect, the payoff is a great climax, and the movie is a perfect showcase for our lead actors.
What doesn’t work?
While the performances are outstanding, there are definite weaknesses of this film.
When I said above that it’s a slow burn, it is excruciatingly slow at points. There are like five minute spans of just silence and pans across snow-capped mountains. I hadn’t heard the true story so I didn’t know how it would end and I was worried it was going to pull another Brothers (which had a slow burn and absolutely zero climax) but this one at least had an ending. But is it worth it? For some of you… yes. It’s a long movie and requires a lot of patience (and caffeine).
Also… the real story and the motivations behind it don’t really make sense. So some parts of this movie just don’t make sense either, which might frustrate some viewers.
As a character-piece, Foxcatcher succeeds. It’s a slow and methodical movie that builds to a chilling (but logically confusing) conclusion. This movie is worth seeing for Tatum and Carell’s performances but I doubt I’ll ever want to see it again and I’m even hesitant to recommend it, knowing that it won’t be for everyone. Maybe catch it on DVD or streaming at some point, theater viewing doesn’t enhance this experience.