This dark, twisted true life story is filled with stellar acting, yet still manages to bore.
I’ll start with this – If you’re unfamiliar with the story of John du Pont, the Schultz brothers, and the Foxcatcher wrestling team, keep it that way until you see the film. While the trailers give nothing away, knowing the history of this tale definitely lessens the power that Bennett Miller’s latest slow burn attempts to wield over the audience. All you really need to know is that the film revolves around Olympic Gold Medal wrestler Mark Schutlz and his involvement with eccentric billionaire John du Pont, a chemical manufacturer with a heavy interest in professional men’s wrestling.
Coming off of his last two excellent films, Capote and Moneyball, Foxcatcher is a different approach for Miller. Both of the former films provided excellent character studies in the midst of an interesting and unravelling story. In the case of Foxcatcher, the disturbing relationships built by the characters provide the story itself. While we do see a progression of time occur via seasons and wrestling events, the true time of the film passes via the ever shifting personalities of certain characters, and the revelations about each of them the audience slowly learns.
And I truly do mean slowly learns.
Foxcatcher is as slow of a burn as I’ve seen in many years. While the acting is all incredible, with Steve Carell giving an award worthy performance and du Pont, and Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo delivering equally strong parts as the Schutlz brothers, my engagement in the film never really rose above these performances. Maybe this was because I knew where the story would eventually go, but these characters build up in a manner that seemingly exists only to serve the final outcome. The depiction of du Pont is interesting but he, and the remaining characters, deliver who and what they are early on in the film, leaving much to be desired until the finale.
That being said, the cinematography and color correction is outstanding, as is the rest of the film from a technical perspective. Shots are varied, and give a moody and grimy feeling to sequences that would otherwise feel completely normal. It’s a shame that the on-screen action couldn’t enthrall my emotional senses as much as my visual senses were. Another shoutout to the makeup team for Foxcatcher. Facial prosthetics for Carell are eerily real, and subtle touches to the rest of the cast make every feel like they truly exist as these characters.
It’s a shame that the film so heavily relies on characters, yet faults even when backed by incredible performances. Foxcatcher is not a bad movie. There’s a lot to like in it, but it’s held back by the overt use of slow burn storytelling. I’ll never cast judgment for that type of creative decision, but it definitely detracted from my enjoyment and engagement, leaving me teetering on boredom for much of the film.