FilmReview

Review: Steve Carell Transforms Himself in Bennett Miller’s ‘Foxcatcher’

Wesley Emblidge ‘17 / Emertainment Monthly Assistant Editor

Steve Carell and Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher. Photo Credit: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Classics.
Steve Carell and Channing Tatum in Foxcatcher. Photo Credit: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Classics.

With a fake nose, some extra weight and a disconcerting sort of stutter, Steve Carell completely transforms himself into the driven and wealthy but paranoid schizophrenic wrestling coach John du Pont in Foxcatcher. Carell’s switch to drama here is the big draw; the actor’s very few digressions from playing silly characters like those of Anchorman and The Office in movies like Little Miss Sunshine and The Way Way Back still definitely had comedic elements. But Foxcatcher is based on real events between du Pont and Olympic-winning wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) that devolved into a nightmare for all involved.

Bennett Miller (Capote and Moneyball) directs from a script by Dan Futterman (Capote) and Max Frye, and charts Mark’s journey from his first meeting with du Pont in 1987, all the way through his training and their relationship leading up to the 1988 Olympics in Seoul. Dave is eventually also brought on board, drawn away from his family to du Pont’s isolated Foxcatcher Farm by excessive amounts of money. The longer and harder they train, the more du Pont struggles with not being the star, going as far to enter a wrestling match himself (which his assistant pays off the other wrestler to throw). Things escalate, with Mark even getting hooked on cocaine, but the whole way through Miller is very clinical and removed. He moves it at a snail’s pace, often just having us exist silently in a room with one of these characters.

Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher. Photo Credit: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Classics.
Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo in Foxcatcher. Photo Credit: Scott Garfield/Sony Pictures Classics.

The film already struggles to keep us engaged at times, and without the cast none of it would work nearly as well as it does. Carell is good, but Tatum turns in some of his best work to date, and Ruffalo is just as reliable as ever. Even with Carell in the showier role, Tatum ends up standing out more (physically especially) for making a character almost defined by his lack of defining qualities just as interesting as the unhinged du Pont. What Miller gains by going back to the darker and more oblique style of Capote, he also loses by moving away from the clear and purposeful (if bland) Moneyball. Foxcatcher is at its best when its cast has a lot to work with, the rest of the time, it’s harder to stick with.

Overall Grade: B-

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