A critically-acclaimed (four stars from all my favourite critics, and Gareth gave it at least ***+) indie film made by Bennett Miller, whose previous films, Moneyball and Capote, both made my top ten lists: sounded like an obvious winner. Sure, it’s about wrestling, and I have as much respect for the sport of wrestling as I do for the sport of boxing (which is to say absolutely none). And sure, it stars Channing Tatum, an actor I just don’t like. But still. I mean, I knew Foxcatcher wasn’t really about wrestling and I heard Tatum did a good job, so how bad could it possibly be?
Yeah, unfortunately, I did not go in with low expectations and the result wasn’t pretty. This glacially-paced film bored me so much I was tempted more than once to just walk away (and I am a fan of slow-paced films). Foxcatcher is the least-compelling film I have watched in a long time. For me, it bears no resemblance at all to the compelling Moneyball. I have no complaints about Foxcatcher’s moral compass, which is great, and I can see how critics see this film as an indictment of the American Dream and how it affects both the rich and the poor, which is also great. And I am willing to accept that Foxcatcher is supposed to be an uncomfortable and even horrific film to watch, but there is uncomfortable/horrific and dull (Foxcatcher) and uncomfortable/horrific and compelling (e.g. Requiem for a Dream).
Foxcatcher’s true story is about two brothers (Mark and Dave Shultz, played by Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) who were among the best wrestlers in the world in the 1980’s. This brought them to the attention of John Dupont (Steve Carell), one of wealthiest and most disturbed men in the U.S., who invited them to train for the Olympics at his special facility in order to fulfill his dream of being a renowned wrestling coach and impressing or angering his mother (or some such aspirations). The brothers should have stayed far away (after five minutes in a room with Dupont, you can be sure I would have stayed far away), but the money and facilities offered are just too good to pass up. Things go downhill from there (though not immediately) as Dupont’s mother (Vanessa Redgrave) looks on (yeah, we know Dupont has mother issues, and maybe if we had had more time with mother and son the film would have been more interesting for me).
Carell is nominated for an Academy Award. I can understand why, because this is a very brave and sure performance, but there were many better performances in 2014 (my list is coming soon).
There is certainly a story here that is worth telling, about the relationship between the brothers and between them and Dupont and between Dupont and his mother and between Dupont and his misfiring grey cells. But Foxcatcher doesn’t tell the story in a way that captured my attention for even a minute. I could never sit through this again, so Foxcatcher gets **+ (out of respect for the message behind the madness). My mug is down.