Foxcatcher is the true(ish) story (more details on that later) of Mark and Dave Schultz, Olympic wrestlers, and John du Pont, of The du Ponts (as they say repeatedly), a weird old super rich dude with an inexplicable interest in the sport.
Like Captain Phillips last year, this is the kind of real-life story that can accidentally be “spoiled” by googling (while you can’t necessarily spoil real life, you can spoil the plot of a movie, which this has now become). To that end, I’ve put the spoilery bits behind a link after this general section.
Foxcatcher confuses stillness with tension, and slowness for suspense. Lack of dialogue does not automatically mean we’re waiting with bated breath for the next word. Steve Carell is delivering this supposedly revolutionary performance as John du Pont, but he talks so slowly and the rest of the movie moves just as fast. If you were interested, I suppose it could be an effective use of silence, but mostly for me it was just boring.
Contributing to the general boredom factor is the lack of a cohesive plot. It feels episodic, and it doesn’t lead up to anything. There was a point about 3/4 through the movie when I realized that if I didn’t already know that something really dramatic was supposed to happen at the end, I wouldn’t have had a reason to watch anything that happened so far. It kind of ebbs and flows in terms of interest; it seems like the World Championships and later the Olympics are supposed to be key points, but they fall flat. If the parts in between are supposed to be the key points, well, then that completely failed to get off the ground at all.
At one point, Mark (Channing Tatum) says to his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), about his (Mark’s) tenure with John du Pont: “You and I both know I can’t stay here.” and my entire reaction was “Wait, why?” I didn’t feel like anything had happened to warrant such a statement of “Obviously something is wrong.” Perhaps the movie thought it was being subtle, but I feel like it just failed to do anything at all.
The acting is good, but Steve Carell is the least interesting part. Channing Tatum is better, I think, and it feels like he could have been a lot more interesting with more to actually do. Mark Ruffalo steals the show, for me. He’s awesome.
Review continues with spoilers after the jump.
So at the very end of the movie, Mark has flounced from the situation entirely, leaving brother Dave behind. An unknown amount of time later, John drives out to Dave’s house on John’s property and shoots him in cold blood. It comes out of nowhere, and feels out of place even in this movie that’s ostensibly supposed to be about it.
All I knew going in was that it was a true story about wrestling and I was pretty sure someone killed someone else. I didn’t know who, or why, and after seeing the movie, I knew who, but still not really why. In the movie’s defense, the why isn’t ever really clear, but having now read the Wikipedia article and a couple other articles about it, I’m completely disappointed that with that real life story, this is the movie we got from it.
For starters, Dave Schultz was killed almost a decade after most of the events of the movie, which is not made clear at all. It felt like a couple months later at most. Second, they were apparently good friends when du Pont killed him. Which makes a bit of a difference, since the movie seems to imply that Dave is almost held hostage on the du Pont property in exchange for his brother’s freedom of movement.
But most significantly, after the real John du Pont shot the real Dave Schultz, there was a four-day standoff! Du Pont only came out when they shut off his electricity and he tried to fix it! Not only is there no standoff in the movie, there’s one brief scene of Carrell walking through a narrow hallway and then he emerges and is tackled. I feel exceptionally cheated of what could have been an excellent movie, considering that du Pont was apparently a paranoid schizophrenic and acted increasingly erratically leading up to the murder. That’s a movie I would have much rather seen.
Still Not Recommended