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Foxcatcher - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Directing: B-
Acting: A-
Writing: C+
Cinematography: B
Editing: C

You might like Foxcatcher if you like movies that drag on and on. Or, I suppose, excellent performances -- in a movie that cannot otherwise impress. This is the rare movie that is exceptional in some ways but fundamentally average in others, and in at least one way -- the editing -- it tests viewer patience. This movie did not need to be 134 minutes.

But why don't we get right to the exceptional part? This might be the best performance of Channing Tatum's career. As real-life Olympic gold medalist wrestler Mark Schultz, Tatum takes on a physicality and posture that transforms him. Mark never stops coming across as an introspective athlete obsessed with wrestling and stuck inside his own thick head.

Steve Carell is even less recognizable as John du Pont, the corked and awkward middle-aged son of what was, in 1987, "the wealthiest family in America." This is a guy so filthy rich he clearly has no real sense of the way regular people live. Even as a gold medalist, Mark is one of those regular people, and John thinks nothing of putting him up in a guest house that is ridiculously opulent compared to his apartment.

Mark Ruffalo plays Mark Schultz's brother David, himself a gold medalist as well, an accomplished coach, and the person who, we learn, basically raised Mark since their parents' divorce when they were very young. Ruffalo has the thankless task of offering the most subdued performance, the kind of acting work that often gets overlooked precisely because it's so subtle and nuanced.

All three of these actors have the capability and potential to rise above the material they're given, which is this story of an eccentric rich man who basically buys Mark's friendship and then makes it weird. There's a fascinating scene, after many tedious ones, in which John and Mark are riding in John's personal helicopter, and teaches him how to snort coke while rehearsing lines John wrote himself for Mark to read while introducing him at a banquet. It's the type of turn in an oddball friendship that can easily be mistaken for bonding but is something else entirely.

John wants David to join the wrestling team he's sponsoring and helping to both the World Championships and the next Olympics. At first, David resists, saying his family is too settled where they are. Evidently everything can be bought at the right price, and eventually David is flown in with his family as well. Given that this is after John and Mark have gotten so close that Mark even trims John's neck for him, it raises new tensions between all three of them. It's like a strange platonic love triangle.

Director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) is here enamored with extended, quiet scenes. There's nothing inherently wrong with this, and God knows Miller gets himself actors who give their all. But the script renders the laboriously delivered dialogue inert when the lines themselves lack any urgency or vitality. In short: this movie is boring.

Plenty of stuff happens in Foxcatcher, but it takes too long to get to any of it. And since this is a true story, anyone who might remember the news from the time might already know the way things end, but for those of us with no familiarity, it's a pretty massive shocker. Not even that does much to raise this movie to a higher level -- by then, it's far past the time we're ready for it to be over.

The acting in this movie is far too great to dismiss it completely, but in this case, that alone is not enough to make it particularly worth the time. It's too bad, considering the effort (on Carell's prosthetic nose alone) that went into it. But it's a wasted effort in the end.

Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo form some very odd relationships in FOXCATCHER.

Overall: B-
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