Film Review: Foxcatcher

Steve Carell and Channing Tatum star in Foxcatcher. Image from

Steve Carell and Channing Tatum star in Foxcatcher. Image from

Ahead of its run at the Gulbenkian next week, Katie Heslop reviews new Channing Tatum film Foxcatcher, based on the true story of a washed-up Olympic Wrestling Champion’s attempt to reboot his career.

Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher recounts the true story of Olympic Gold Wrestler Mark Schultz and his relationship with multimillionaire John du Pont. The tale is an odd one; a mixture of the tedious and the extraordinary as well as an exploration of the scope of human ambition against the limitations of the mind when pushed again and again.

We first see Mark addressing a bunch of bored school children as he thrusts his gold medal in their faces. Fame and fortune have clearly not lasted; the gleam of the medal looks cheap against the grey hall and later Mark dines on noodles from a Tupperware box. He is rescued by du Pont who wants to create and train the ‘Foxcatcher’ wrestling team at his estate, with the aim of seeing them win gold in the 1988 Olympics. However, it soon becomes clear that du Pont is just as interested in Mark’s more charismatic and articulate brother Dave, who has always overshadowed Mark.

Miller has taken this forgotten and unfortunate story from the eighties and turned it into a tragedy and parable of the dangers of placing your future entirely in someone else’s shaky hands. The central trio consists of Mark Ruffalo as David Schultz, Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz and Steve Carell as John du Pont. While Mark and John bond together over their isolated lifestyles, they regard David’s happy family life with a mixture of longing and resentment. John becomes a failed father figure to Mark, showing him off at fancy dinners whilst encouraging him to take cocaine.

Carell has been showered in praise for his performance this awards season. I do wonder whether this is partly from the shock of seeing the usually comic actor play a character so devoid of humour and warmth, rather than the skill of the performance itself. Du Pont is a menacing and unnerving character but the part requires very little of Carell really; he just stands and stares while the haunting prosthetic nose does the job for him. Then again, when I think back to his voice, it still gives me shivers.

Ruffalo superbly plays Dave Schultz as a clever and caring man who had the misfortune to be tied to two insecure and lonely individuals. Tatum gives his whole physical self to the role with brave honesty. The body which made women swoon in Magic Mike is reduced to a hunk of flesh and meat being thrown around on the wrestling mat. Honesty is the most admirable quality of this film; demonstrated in Ruffalo and Tatum’s performances, the depiction of fraternal relationships, the physical hardship of wrestling and the inevitable fall when you set yourself unattainable dreams.


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