D: Bennett Miller. W: E. Max Frye & Dan Futterman. DP: Greig Fraser. Starring: Steve Carell/Channing Tatum/Mark Ruffalo/Sienna Miller/Vanessa Redgrave/Anthony Michael Hall.
Slated to be released in 2013, Foxcatcher was delayed for more editing time then did a festival circuit this past year. The film follows the American Schultz brothers, 1984 Olympic wrestling gold medalists looking to continue their success. Specifically, Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) who wants to break out from his big brother’s Dave (Mark Ruffalo) shadow. He is offered sponsorship and a training facility by rich patriot John du Pont (Steve Carell) in preparation for the 1988 games.
Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote) delves into true story space again as he investigates a sensational headline that ends his film. Without delving anymore into the plot, the film’s culmination will certainly depend on the audience’s knowledge of these events. However, Foxcatcher is ultimately a study of performance. Without music or a score introduced until around thirty minutes in, Miller’s world is stark and tense.
Ruthlessly physical and sporting a wrestler’s gait, Tatum is great here. His constraint of energy and chemistry with Ruffalo are a wonderful core anchoring for the film. Their physicality with each other is full of emotional expressions, with Ruffalo’s tenderness nearly heart breaking. Amidst this brotherhood lurks Carell who is unsettling in every frame. Not only due to his facial transformation, but his stillness and sly sickness that oozes from his scenes. These three men create such a layered environment, no one knows who is thinking what anymore. Sadly the women are relegated to the sidelines, specifically Sienna Miller is a waste here.
In the end what is memorable about Foxcatcher is it’s ambiguity. Not a single element of the film alludes to a conclusion or provides answers for the character’s choices. Compared to other biopics or tragedies this feels refreshing, unsettling, and discomforting. In a way the filmmaking generates a sensory experience that mimics the baffling events, or what they might have been like to see unfold. Miller’s refusal to take the film down other tangential plot lines saves Foxcatcher and allows the performances to burn.