Surely Oscar worthy performances are enough to make a great film?
Foxcatcher is the latest film in the Oscar bait season and it is based (how accurately, I don’t know) on a true story. Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo play brothers Mark and David Schultz. Mark is an Olympic wrestler with a gold medal under his belt and brother David acts as both coach, manager and surrogate father figure. Mark is restless under his brother’s wing and comes into contact with John Du Pont, played by Steve Carell, a multimillionaire wanting to coach the next medal winning team.
I won’t spoil the plot, in case you aren’t familiar with the story (as I wasn’t going in) but it’s the interaction between the three central characters that marks the high point of the film. All three give damned fine performances; Ruffalo is always a solid actor, after all, he even managed to salvage The Hulk for Marvel and here he is at his best, giving a great performance as family man and older brother. Unfortunately for him, his performance is overshadowed by both Tatum and Carell. Tatum’s character is the protagonist of the film and his restrained performance really ought to remove the bad reputation that has followed Tatum for so long.
Carell is completely transformed in this film. If you were expecting a comedic performance, then you’ll be sorely disappointed, Carell is masterful here but dear God is he creepy. Carell plays Du Pont in such a grimy and oily way that you’ll want to shower after seeing him. Du Pont amplifies the sibling rivalry of the brothers and creates himself as an insidious mentor for the both of them.
So with acting of this calibre, this must surely be a great film, right? That, I’m not sure about. Whilst the performances are great, the film itself is slow, so very, very slow. I don’t have a problem with a slow, artistic film myself but Foxcatcher gets excruciating at times. The ultra slow build up does have a climax in mind but while it is quite good, I’m not sure it was worth the wait. There are whole, long panning scenes where nothing happens and there isn’t even any music, to the point where I was worried that I’d nod off.
In all, Foxcatcher is worth a watch but know what you’re getting going in. Great performances but you’ll have to work to get them. In many years that would be a good trade but right now there are better films that also have great performances in them (Theory of Everything, for example), which are more worthy of your time and money.
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