It may not be as accessible as 2011’s “Moneyball”, or as straightforward as 2005’s “Capote”, but I think Bennett Miller has directed his best film with this year’s “Foxcatcher”. The based-on-a-true-story tale of eccentricity and obsession, won Mr. Miller the Best Director Award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival, and you can expect Oscar to follow suit with a bunch of nominations. Early focus has been given to the performance of Steve Carrell, and his work is strong–although it’s very “showy”. Hopefully time will bring more attention to the exemplary acting by Mark Ruffalo. His performance is everything Carrell’s isn’t: subtle, multi-faceted, and sans the use of distracting makeup prosthetics. Oh, and heartthrob Channing Tatum is pretty darn good, too.

Multimillionaire John du Pont (Mr. Carrell) is a philanthropical sports enthusiast, living on a sprawling Pennsylvania estate– with his disabled, disapproving mother (the still vital, Vanessa Redgrave) never far behind. Now in his mid 50’s, he sets his mind on turning his Foxcatcher Farms into a world-class wrestling training facility, and he decides to hire TWO Olympic Gold Medalists to ensure his plan’s success. The arrival of 1984 champions Mark Schultz (Mr. Tatum), and older brother Dave (the superb Mr. Ruffalo) is initially a harmonious “partnership”. But soon the methods, as well as the madness, of Mr. du Pont, come into question. And before long the team is dealt the blows of addiction, defeat–and finally murder.

What I loved about “Foxcatcher” is its lack of obviousness. That’s a credit to Mr. Miller’s direction, as well as the wonderful screenplay of E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman. There’s not a lot of time spent on “why” here, which is perfectly acceptable, because only the individual himself (or herself), knows what’s taking place in one’s mind. To attempt to spell everything out would be pedestrian, and good for the “Foxcatcher” creators for treating their audience with more respect. The film is also gorgeously and hauntingly photographed by Greig Fraser, and the pacing is nearly perfect. I liked Carrell in this, but his “look” occasionally yanked me out of the movie. However, Mr. Ruffalo’s “real person” underplaying, always manage to suck me right back in. He’s incredible.

Grade:  A-


2 comments on “Foxcatcher

  1. Good review Mark. It’s unsettling and chilly, but the cast is so magnificent that it’s quite hard to turn away from.

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