I was asked some time ago about which American movies am I excited about in the 2014. I paused, thought about it and I said “Whiplash”, “Birdman”, “Foxcatcher” and “Jupiter Ascending”. The last one has been pushed in 2015 but from that list I am most disappointed in the “Foxcatcher”.
THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!
I was excited about it because I’m a sports fan and there have been many positive reviews of the film, some of them on the WordPress too. Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carrel seemed like a pretty good ensemble of actors for the story that needed to be told, even if the title of the book written by the main character was a spoiler by itself. Acting, however, was one aspect of the film I was not disappointed about. Steve Carrel as John du Pont was awesome, and in parts of the film I thought that he’s so drown in degeneracy of his character like the villain in superhero or horror film. Jack Torrance and Ledger’s Joker came to mind immediately. Mark Ruffalo was also very good in his performance as Dave Shultz, and knowing the title of the Mark’s book has only helped the character and an actor to feel sympathy for his continued effort to work in an unwelcome and surely unhealthy environment. Channing Tatum was much more present in the first half of the movie than he is in the second. Somehow, focus shifted. Brothers were in the centerpiece of the puzzle. Carell was spoiled kid with a misplaced part who just wanted to “smash it all” to use the language of the other character Ruffalo brought to the screen.
Positives don’t end there. Story about two wrestlers, heroes of the nation consumed by Cold war, was one thing. Story about two people so utterly different and human under the layers of success was another. Character differences between brothers were obvious from the beginning but Du Pont thrives from them, exploiting younger brother complex to the limit. I had associations of “Wolf of the Wall Street” in some moments of the film. Wickedness and egocentric approach of Du Pont was in my mind paralleled with one of Jordan Belfort in that film. Vanessa Redgrave is also worth of a mention for her role of Du Pont’s mother because she was some kind of glue that kept pieces of his character from falling apart. Her character was also, very possibly, the cause of John Du Pont’s complexes in the first place.
With all these positives, why I didn’t catch the “Foxcatcher”? I already mentioned that the focus shifted from one brother to another in the second half of the film. That was good for the movie as Ruffalo was more convincing in his role but when Mark Shultz just disappeared from the movie after Seoul Olympics, story started to fall apart. His character was the main character of the story and he was just gone in one moment – the years has passed – and he was participating in the UFC in another. We were left with Du Pont and Dave Shultz accompanied by of slow pace atmosphere throughout the whole movie. That atmosphere was in contrast with abrupt ending that Miller delivered. After Seoul, we have a feeling that Dave and Du Pont haven’t been up to anything important. Dave was coaching, Du Pont was paying. We receive hints of Du Pont’s mental decline but they stayed at that level. We see Du Pont at Dave’s house when he’s with his family (that scene in particular lacked the conviction and conflict) and the next time when we see Du Pont he’s taking his gun and he goes at his place determined to commit a crime. True story, however, suggests that Dave Shultz was systematically harassed by Du Pont, his family was afraid of Du Pont’s excesses and during the Olympic training camp for Atlanta Olympics Du Pont was more and more insane. Build-up that leads to that horrific act was missing from the film. When Bennett Miller slow-pace in the rest of the movie is considered, that build-up should be crucial to the story and it wasn’t there. Big mistake, I think. Also, it would be nice to see after-Seoul relationship between Dave and Mark when all their differences in the past are considered. Another thing that wasn’t shown was Mark’s reaction to the atrocity committed by Du Pont. In one scene we have Dave shot on the snow and in another we have Mark in the UFC. I had a feeling that the film was so methodically made up to the Seoul Olympics and then somebody said to Miller: Ok, now we have the most important part, come on wrap it up…
Maybe the film is too long, as some critics suggest, but then it should’ve been rewritten to achieve dramatic conflicts needed for the conclusion. In this cut it seems like Du Pont killed Dave out of the blue. Pity… Maybe director’s cut of this movie will be a masterpiece but this version for sure – isn’t .
Rating: 7/10 (I was in dilemma to give 6 or 7)