Saturday, December 6, 2014

Foxcatcher - Review

Foxcatcher – Review

Academy Award nominee Director Bennett Miller (“Moneyball”) delivers to the big screen his latest effort entitled “Foxcatcher”; a true psychological drama starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Sienna Miller. The film tells the story of two 1984 Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestling brothers Mark Schultz (Tatum) and Dave Schultz and their happenchance encounter with multimillionaire philanthropist John Eleuthère du Pont.

In 1987 younger brother Mark Schultz was a down on his luck Gold Medal American hero wrestler who largely spent his days immersed in the boring repetitive practice of wrestling with his older brother and living a very sparse existence in a drab upstairs apartment eating ramen noodles. And while other gold medal winning Olympian athletes who medaled in other events had many more avenues to continue to practice, to regularly compete and to even earn a decent financial living between four year Olympic spans, amateur wrestlers had very few financial avenues to pursue after winning gold other than practice for the next four years with the hope of capturing more national fame again as a winning Olympian. The only other alternative would be to hopefully catch on with some college team as a coach which was the avenue Mark’s older brother Dave Schultz was in the process of securing. He was now happily married with two small kids and really saw no future in going back to the Olympics for himself other than to help his brother get there by working with him to make the USA team again.

Mark feeling frustrated at his poverty stricken existence receives a call out of the blue from a representative of John Du Pont inviting him to come to his palatial estate at Valley Forge PA. There Mark and John have a cordial and friendly meeting about John’s desire to make America strong through wrestling and that he would provide the resources and facilities to house, feed and train this country’s best wrestlers with Mark being in charge of the recruiting, training and working toward his own Olympic gold and with John being its coach and team leader. With what looks like the opportunity of a life time Mark eagerly agrees to the arrangement with the belief that this would give him the chance to gain the respect and redemption of his brother Dave and equally so for John as well from his domineering disapproving mother. But with their seemingly friendly agreement hand shake what in fact does transpires over the course of this two hour film is an expose of the influences of wealth and how it can corrupt good people into situations of emotional fragility, drugs, Freudian fatherhood relationships, mental illness and disillusionment of national grandeur that eventually spirals downward to destructive tragic consequences that no one could have ever possible fathom.  

Structurally, the film itself Foxcatcher is immersed in an eerie disturbing sense of quiet and atmosphere stillness. The conversations between the principles seem both naturally real and direct, with the occasionally appropriately funny moments in tow that all the while proceeds to go from scene to scene with an undercarriage of real chilly darkness and foreboding to occur. It also takes us the viewing audience on a fascinatingly, disturbing and pleasantly weird tale examination of the class system in this country. It both uniquely and unfortunately offers up masterfully the question of how is it that some people who work hard seemingly never achieve the full success they probably deserve and those who are simply born into prosperity seemingly can’t get out of their own way of perpetual implosion and self-destruction. Foxcatcher overall is a real life trip into the emotional abyss when money makes people naively cloud reasonable judgment.

Foxcatcher is one hundred percent to garner a whole range of Oscar nominations across the board, starting with Steve Carell, who immediately disappears into his John du Pont persona that it is totally convincing; he is certain to earn a Best Actor Nomination. Also equal to the film’s success is Mark Ruffalo as the loving protective older brother Dave who is certain to get a Supporting Actor Nomination performance as well. Finally Channing Tatum is quite convincing as the willful and earnest younger brother Mark as he contributes to the story intense and suspenseful film build up to insanity and madness.

In the end Foxcatcher is a real story about ambition, paranoia, greed, ruthless behaviors and ruthless pursuits and as I heard someone else say about this film, “Foxcatcher” is both one of the best movies I have seen this year and the best feel bad movie of the year.

4 Stars

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