Bennett Miller’s sort-of sports drama Foxcatcher was nominated for five Oscars last week. Yosra Osman checks it out.
Steve Carrell (no, really) and Channing Tatum
Foxcatcher is not your average sports film and the best way to see it is to know as little about the true story behind it as possible.
There are a couple of things I’m at liberty to give away:
1. It’s not about fox hunting, as one bewildered lady in front of me at the cinema assumed.
2. It may have wrestling in it, but (thankfully) it’s not all about wrestling.
Bennett Miler’s psychological drama is well crafted, well acted and well executed. It’s also a tense piece of cinema that will hook you with a sense of dread and leave you feeling particularly cold by the time the credits roll. It has a real sense of emptiness throughout, often with long moments of silence and frequent still shots of landscapes that should be beautiful, but are instead pretty grim.
Of course, this is all intentional. Without such hollowness, it would be harder to grasp the sheer loneliness of the main characters: Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), an isolated and emotionally withdrawn wrestling champion and disturbing millionaire John du Pont (Steve Carrell), who invites him to his wealthy estate to help him train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Their relationship is fraught; even during the moments in which they bond, it was hard for me to feel anything but a dark sense of foreboding.
Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as the Schultz brothers
Much of the film’s success lies in the high-quality performances. Funny man Steve Carrell is not funny, apart from in a couple of deliberately cringe-worthy moments. He is completely unrecognisable, eerily played with a transformation that goes far beyond the physically larger nose and stooped frame. His Oscar nomination is completely deserved. Channing Tatum is also well cast as the brooding, dejected Mark Schultz, and the ever-likeable Mark Ruffalo presents the perfect contrast in Schultz’s brother Dave: a family man, with a charming personality and a winning wrestling form.
Unlike your typical Rocky-esque inspirational sports film, Foxcatcher is creepy as hell, yet undeniably gripping. It may be too slow-paced for some, but it’s definitely worth a watch. Just be prepared for it to leave a bit of a bad taste in the mouth.
Yosra Osman is a mid-twenties film fan and self-confessed daydreamer of dangerous proportions