Review: Foxcatcher

A few days ago, I decided to watch Foxcatcher at the Gulbenkian cinema at the University of Kent. It wasn’t a hard decision to make, considering that the film was nominated for five Academy Awards. Although Foxcatcher has not managed to capitalise on any of its nominations, considering what it was up against, I’m not terribly surprised.

Foxcatcher tells the story of three men – Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and John Eleuthere du Pont (Steve Carell). Based on a true story (like I’ve said before, the Oscars love them some true stories), Mark is an Olympic gold medallist wrestler struggling to break free from his brother’s shadow. He decides to join du Pont, a wealthy millionaire who is himself struggling to escape the shadow of a loved one.

Director Bennett Miller may not have won the Best Director Oscar, but he did manage to snag one at Cannes. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu shot Birdman like it was a one long single take (with Michael Keaton making bird noises in it) and Richard Linklater shot Boyhood over twelve years (thank god nobody died during that time). What was so special about Miller’s film that he managed to beat both of them to the Cannes award?

Well, to answer that question we must first discuss the role of the director. One of the key roles of a director is to bring out the best performances in their cast, and after watching this film, I think I can safely say that no one did that better than Miller did.

To put it simply, Miller took two actors more known for their comedic chops, Channing Tatum and Steve Carell, and elevated them to the point that they were both in the discussions for Oscar nominations. Tatum didn’t get one but both Carell and Ruffalo got nominated.

I’ll be brutally honest, Channing Tatum was not a powerhouse actor to begin with. He started off as ‘the guy from Step Up’. But unlike the other DANCERS from the franchise, Tatum has worked his butt off time and time again. He found his niche in comedy with the smash hit 21 Jump Street, and his performance in Foxcatcher further shows just how much he has grown as an actor. Now that he’s playing Gambit in the X-Men cinematic universe, my guess is that we’ll be seeing much more of Channing Tatum in the not too distant future.

Moving on to Mark Ruffalo. We all know that the guy is an Incredible Hulk (get it?), but the dude has some serious acting chops as well. This is his second Oscar nomination, after The Kids Are All Right. Behind the bald head and black beard, Ruffalo is almost unrecognisable in his role. He simply disappears into the character of Dave Schultz and it’s a wonder he ever came out of it.

Now, finally, the hero(?) of the film, Steve Carell as John du Pont. Let’s put it this way, if you had walked into the film without knowing that Steve Carell was in it…

…you would have walked out without knowing that Steve Carell was in it. He was that good. To the point, his character is everything Steve Carell isn’t in a movie. Du Pont is a serious, creepy, brooding, disciplined egomaniac. One might even say that he’s the polar opposite of Carell, and he kills it in one of the best performances of the year BY FAR. Wow. I mean, wow. Steve Carell, bravo. BRAVO. You deserve that damn Oscar nomination. Milk it for all its worth.

To wrap things up, Foxcatcher, like many Best Picture nominees, isn’t for everyone. The film is like a candle – it’s a slow burn. It jogs along at a slow but steady pace, never wavering and constantly keeping your eyes glued to the screen (figuratively speaking, of course). The performances by the three main actors are by all means tremendous and wonderful. If you get the chance to watch Foxcatcher, then do so right now. It definitely deserves its Best Picture nomination.

DARREN CHEW

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