“Coach is the father. Coach is a mentor. Coach has great power on athlete’s life,” said John du Pont.
Bennett Miller is known for constructing a difficult, untouchable real-life subjects into some emotional character-driven films that fortunately brought him glory. His tendency to disclose some real-life low-profile figures to screen is proven in Capote (2005) and Moneyball (2011). It’s no surprise when he finally decided to direct a film about a shooting tragedy—involving a queer multi-millionaire oddball and a world champion wrestler—and not make it a pure biopic in Foxcatcher.
Miller returned to the sub-genre that got him recognized via Moneyball, sport drama; only this time, he set the tone darker and more atmospheric. Foxcatcher—under Miller’s directing—becomes a slow-burned kind of biopic that, instead of highlighting some monumental moments in history, focuses on the depth of the characters. With Miller, you forget the ‘based on actual events’ tag, you focus on a so-called ‘based on actual characters’ tag; that’s the point.
The most unique part of Foxcacther is, indeed, the narrative. It’s supposed to highlight the setup of the shooting accident that causes the death of former world-champion wrestler, Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) by John du Pont (Steve Carell in prosthetic); however, it doesn’t. It focuses more on how Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), Dave’s younger brother, also an Olympics gold-medal winner, bridges a triangular character study of those three key characters. All these dramas are wrapped in a mostly silent, bleak picture of power and ambition.
Power and ambition are the keys to Foxcatcher that fuel those three main characters within such a demented situation. Mark needs acknowledgement as he wants to get off his brother’s shadow; Dave needs something more in his top-notch career; while du Pont does not need anything but something that makes him more alive. Yet, out of those three, Carell as du Pont is the eeriest; his character’s ambition and motivation is barely revealed, and yet, this film doesn’t even want to provide answers. Foxcatcher understands this point as a key to escalate the narrative and it works well in depicting how power and ambition corrupts people in a way that has never been taken.
Aside from Miller’s superfine direction with that unorthodox approach, Foxcatcher is vivid because of the emotional portrayal of the three main characters by Tatum, Ruffalo, and Carell respectively. However, Carell’s portrayal of John du Pont is the real master-class. Carell convincingly makes real breakthroughs—physically and beyond; not only his prosthetic face that makes differences, but how he differs from his typical performance to portray the unusual nihilism in du Pont’s perspective is exceptional—a real out of his usual performance.
All in all, Foxcatcher is never been an easy film to watch, however, it’s never been a disappointing film. Although I personally do not like how the film focused on some details as it’s interrupting the pace of the whole film, I like how it presents the triangular character-study. It’s worth its own unorthodox approach to a sport tragedy.
VERDICT: Foxcatcher wraps a triangular character study in a mostly silent, bleak picture of power and ambition using Bennett Miller’s slow-burned unorthodox approach. Yet, it’s mostly provocative and vivid because of the stellar performance by Tatum, Ruffalo, and Carell respectively.
Drama, Biopic, Sport Directed by: Bennett Miller Written by: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman Starred by: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller Running Time: 134 mins Rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence