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  Foxcatcher Wrestling With The IssuesBuy this film here.
Year: 2014
Director: Bennett Miller
Stars: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Hall, Guy Boyd, Brett Rice, Jackson Frazer, Samara Lee, Francis J. Murphy III, Jane Mowder, David 'Doc' Bennett, Lee Perkins, Robert Haramia, Daniel Hilt
Genre: Biopic
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: During the Los Angeles Olympic Games of 1984, the Schultz brothers, Mark (Channing Tatum) and David (Mark Ruffalo), were award-winners, securing the gold medals in the wrestling category, yet come three years later, their past glories were sounding rather hollow when the most support either could get was accepting cheques for speeches to schoolchildren and other supposedly interested parties, leaving David with at least a coaching job and his loving family, but an isolated Mark living hand to mouth as he trained for the Seoul Olympics the following year. Yet someone has been watching them both, especially Mark, and wants to help: a multimillionaire by the name of John du Pont (Steve Carell), who believes in them and his country...

With a true story like Foxcatcher, the viewer has a choice of whether to read up a little before watching it should they not already know what occurred, or go into it cold so as to watch the events, or this version of events, as they unfolded, leaving the surprises to the story. The trouble with that in this case was, if you were unaware of what was going to happen by the end, you may be wondering why you were bothering spending time with these people at all, especially du Pont, who you mark out as a creep from his first appearance and nothing throughout the rest of the film puts you off that assumption. Not least the action he took which is the reason director Bennett Miller was making the movie in the first place.

Nevertheless, if you genuinely do not know, the atmosphere of encroaching dread would be enough to alert you that this was not going to end well, and though the film was criticised for being slow paced, that was something the audience should have adjusted to, as this was truly placing three men, superbly acted by the leads, under the microscope and seeing what made them tick. Even then, while Mark and David were more or less open books, debatably the most interesting player as far as personality went was John, still carrying his secrets by the climax, most notably what drove him to do what he did. This meant spending a lot more time thinking over what we had seen of him to get to his dark heart, and that may be far more time than the average person would wish.

Carell was buried in makeup for his role, a million miles away from his accustomed comic persona but yet again proving comedians yearn to be taken seriously should the right straight acting part make itself apparent. His interpretation of du Pont was spooky and unnerving, a portrait of a man who had been driven mad by his inability to connect with his fellow human beings (he treats Mark like a pet dog at times), and Miller offered a number of clues as to why that was, such as his icy relationship with his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) who he cannot impress no matter what he does, paradoxically because he is so unlovable as an individual, creating a vicious circle. It is strongly implied that du Pont was homosexual, and his interest in wrestling stemmed not only from his pleasure in watching men grappling with each other, but getting close to those men himself.

He couldn't pursue a romance with them, and sex was out of the question, so he pushes back his desires and channels them into the physical contest. His love of weaponry was another pointer to a troubled mind wanting to be macho to demonstrate to the world he had the force of will to back up his entirely inherited wealth, but that merely brought itself out in a controlling nature, with his insistence on vainly filming his wrestling endeavours and those who carried them out both telling and disturbing. The driven Mark and the more easygoing David both seem to be aware all is not right here, but they frankly needed du Pont's sponsorship to continue their work, yet Miller had a bigger picture in mind given du Pont's obsession with patriotism. He appeared to be saying this unquestioning fervour to champion your nation had created a climate where reasonable voices like David's were being drowned out by irrational, dangerous ones like du Pont's, with the ordinary Marks of the world seeing their ambitions cheapened and perverted. Heavy handed, perhaps, but it fitted the narrative. Music by Rob Simonsen.

[Entertainment One's DVD has a featurette on the story of the film (it's interesting to compare the real life counterparts with the actors) and deleted scenes as extras.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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