Based on a true story, “Foxcatcher” is a weird movie about three weird guys. Steve Carell deserves an Oscar nom for sure. He transformed himself completely into John Eleuthère du Pont, an eccentric multi-millionaire with serious mommy issues.
Carell is unrecognizable in this role, and that is not just because of the prosthetic nose, although that helps. It’s the tone and rhythm of his voice, the way he walks, the 100-mile stare, his mannerisms and body language; most notably, the way he holds his head tilted up.
Vanessa Redgrave plays John’s iceberg of a mom who refuses to be supportive of his dreams of heading his Foxcatcher Farm training site in Newtown Square, Pa., for the national Olympic wrestling team. “The sport of wrestling is a low sport,” she says with opulent disdain, “and I don’t like to see you being low.” Her love is saved for her prize horses.
The family owns the mammoth company DuPont, and John and his mother live on an expansive estate. Servants suck up while John lives in his shell of loneliness. He seeks out an Olympic gold-winning wrestler for his team and tracks down Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) with an invitation to come live in a chateau on the grounds for free. He wants Mark to win another gold medal and make Foxcatcher a household word. It’s great timing for Mark, who has been holed up in his room stuffing his face with Ring Dings and Oreos.
While he broods, his brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), comes to pull him out of the funk he’s in. Dave is thriving as a wrestling trainer. He, too, won gold as a wrestler, but now he is most interested in his happy family with his wife, Nancy (Sienna Miller), and their beautiful son and daughter. No matter how busy he is, though, he always makes time for Mark. We learn that the brothers were shuffled around as kids, and despite their closeness in age, Dave acts as a parent toward Mark.
Tatum, Ruffalo and Miller all do a good job, but this is Carell’s movie. “It was uncomfortable to be around Steve as John du Pont,” Nancy Schultz, Dave’s widow, said in a press release. “He stayed in character most of the time, and it was very unsettling to catch a glimpse of him out of the corner of my eye.”
Bennett Miller (“Capote,” “Moneyball”) won as Best Director at Cannes this year for “Foxcatcher,” and the film earned an Official Selection there and at five additional film festivals.
John du Pont came between the Schultz brothers — first by pulling Mark away from Dave in an attempt to break up their codependent relationship, then he unexpectedly turned on Mark. Now favoring Dave, he rubs it in Mark’s face.
My biggest problem with this film is its snail’s pace. It runs more than two hours, and the whole tale could’ve been told in 45 minutes. A lot of time was spent on close-ups and meaningful looks that are redundant. OK, we know that John and Mark are head cases. We get it.
The last 20 minutes is where the action is, and a strong ending is always appreciated. The finale is startling and fascinating, and one of the three reasons I can recommend seeing this film. The other two are Carell’s performance, which blew my mind, and the movie stayed with me way more than most films ever do.
“Foxcatcher” opens in theaters Friday, Nov. 14. Rated R. 134 min.
Watch the trailer:
Dorri Olds is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.