Foxcatcher has been in the works for years, and the eagerly-anticipated movie from director Bennett Miller does not necessarily disappoint but it will leave you feeling hollow. Something is missing, which maybe is the point.
The tragic true story of eccentric billionaire John Du Pont and Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz and his coach brother, David Schultz, is finally out on the screen ... just in time for Oscar voters (not a coincidence). Comedian Steve Carrell as Du Pont is memorably creepy, and will likely receive a nomination for Best Actor.
While Miller (Moneyball, Capote) does a nice job of focusing on but the three main characters in the film, the audience is going to find no connection to any of the trio. This is ultimately a sad story of people led astray, the often tragic power of wealth, and the sadness that can simply happen in life.
The story: Du Pont is the real-life heir to the Du Pont fortune, and he led an isolated life with complicated relationships with his family. He can do whatever he wants because of his money, and he creates an image for himself as a patriot who uses wrestling to regain America's lost sense of identity.
What he really appears to be is a closet-homosexual who never had the need to be good at anything. He recruits a lost soul in wrestler Mark Schultz to train at his massive estate in Pennsylvania, and ultimately buys a faux role as a wrestling coach even though he comically knows little about it.
Du Pont is surrounded by enablers who do whatever he wants, including filming a documentary about his role as a coach, because he has more money than he can count.
He eventually recruits (buys), David Schultz to come to Pennsylvania with his wife and two kids to run the USA wrestling program that the program basically turns over to Du Pont because he donates half a million dollars every year.
The characters: Channing Tatum is outstanding as the quiet, angry, shy and easily swayed Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz. He wrestles because he is good at it, and his older brother - David (played so subtly well by Mark Ruffalo) knows what he is doing. Tatum does an exceptional job of never being comfortable.
Du Pont is core of the film as the eccentric billionaire manipulating Mark Schultz, who eventually becomes irritated and angry with his former "mentor" that he eventually realizes is a fraud. Carrell is so good you forget he is a comedian.
All three men are memorable in their own way, and Ruffalo is wonderful as the one person who passively fights the preposterous role that Du Pont creates for himself.
Does it work?: Much like Capote (the one with the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), Foxcatcher works in the sense that the story is compelling, and you want to see how it ends. It is a deliberately paced, and slow, film that uses minimal soundtrack or noise. This is an exceptionally quiet film, but it is not going to connect with viewers because there is a sympathy chip missing.
The problem: You are not going to care, or feel sympathy for, any of the three people. This film was ripe for sympathy, and it's miss on this vital element defines the film.
Oscar Winner? Except a slew of nominations, but no major wins with the possible exception of Screenplay.
Should you see it: Yes, but wait for it on home video.
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