Wednesday, January 07, 2015

Movie review: Foxcatcher


Perplexing. Befuddling. Those were the first two words that came to mind when I tried to charactarize Bennet Miller's acclaimed new flick, Foxcatcher.

The film is based on an actual incident that occurred in 1996 when John Dupont, heir to the Dupont family fortune, gunned down Dan Shultz, a gold-medal winning Olympic Free Style wrestler. The narrative of the film, then, recounts the events and circumstances that led to this tragic and inexplicable event.

The film stars Channing Tatum, Steve Carrell and Mark Ruffalo, each of whom turn in powerful and convincing performances.

Up to now, I haven't been much of a Channing Tatum fan, but this film gave me new respect for him. He plays Mark Shultz, Dan's younger brother and the film's chief protagonist. Mark is a man very much at war with himself. Although an Olympic gold medalist, his self-esteem is shaky. Tatum conveys this in the set of his shoulders, in his tormented expressions, in his troubling bouts of tearfulness.

Steve Carrell plays John Dupont, the wealthy Dupont heir who attempts to buy his way into the world of Olympic wrestling by sponsoring a training facility at Foxcatcher, the family estate. Carrell's interpretation of an out-of-touch blueblood is disturbing as well as convincing.  "Ornithologist, philanthropist, philatelist," Dupont chants to Mark Shultz in a self-aggrandizing monologue.

But the best performance, in my opinion, was Mark Ruffalo as Dan Schultz, the murder victim. The way Ruffalo moves, the way he rolls his shoulders as he walks, the way he holds his arms like weapons at the ready, all say "Olympic wrestler." And, from the accounts I've read of the real Dan Schultz, Ruffalo's interpretation of a calm, reasoning and compassionate man is spot on.

The choreography in this film is fantastic. Tatum and Ruffalo are completely convincing in the wrestling sequences. And Carrell is convincing as well --as a pathetic caricature of a wrestler.

Of course, being a film, the Foxcatcher story is abridged, but it seems to me that Miller's work conveyed the essence of the event. In the real-life investigation following the murder, police were never able to establish a motive for Dupont's behavior.

In the end, it was a senseless tragedy. Like I said: perplexing. Befuddling.

1 comment:

Thomas Watson said...

Bennett Miller's direction is the strongest element of the film for me.