Bennett Miller’s ‘Foxcatcher’ is a serviceable film about Jon “Golden Eagle” Du Pont and a salacious period of his life that revolved around USA Olympic Wrestling and the Schultz Brothers. Bennet’s previous outings ‘Capote’ and ‘Moneyball’ were more fun than ‘Foxcatcher’ but all similarly directed with deft hands. The film is engrossing, due more to the transcendent performances than the story per se; however, instead of apathy I found myself wanting to know more about all of the characters. As unpleasant as the story and the ultimate conclusion are I did find the character study to be fascinating, which should be the goal of this type of film. As opposed to spending the few years that built up to this tragedy, I would have liked to have seen how but Du Pont and the Shultz’s personalities were formed and the road that led them to each other.
What Miller and his actors achieve in ‘Foxcather’ is to be lauded, the film transports the viewer into this insular environment that the Du Pont fortune afforded Jon’s eccentric personality. Steve Carrell has earned accolades for his transformative performance which is only heightened because of his deep comedic roots. There are no laughs to be found here, but instead a portrait of a mentally ill man with a plethora of undiagnosed conditions that is easily enabled by his family’s wealth. It’s important to note that there isn’t an undercurrent of 1% bashing, but instead a cautionary tale about undiagnosed mental illness run amok. The other performances of note come from Channing Tatum who easily cuts the figure of an Olympic caliber wrestler and Mark Ruffalo that has to stretch his physicality in order to make him believable in the skin of David Shultz. Fortunately Ruffalo’s considerable ability allows the viewer to bridge that gap without hesitation. The one nagging feeling that gnawed at me during Ruffalo’s screen time is that the character isn’t as fleshed out and is practically martyrized by the denouement.
‘Foxcatcher’ is grounded in a stark reality and as a viewer I had no problem believing that this is an accurate portrayal of how these events unfolded. Any complaints I have about the movie are difficult to distill down because this is a well-executed, expertly crafted, and masterfully performed film that I can’t say that I particularly like. I understand the characters, the story, and the themes of wealth and mental illness, but I didn’t find that window into the film that made me identify with any of it. I am glad that I have this film in my film education, but unless you are a burgeoning cinefile I can’t recommend this film; however, if you want to consider yourself a well-rounded lover of film then I can’t recommend this film more because these are performances that you’ll need to make educated references and comparisons for years to come.