Wednesday, December 24, 2014

12 Movies of Christmas: Foxcatcher (2014)

          'Foxcatcher': An Acting Master Class That Shows How Greed Is A Dangerous Animal
     While I do find horror movies to be scary, the kind that are the most terrifying, in my opinion, are the ones that are closer to real-life. Foxcatcher may not exactly be a horror film, thanks to its chilling direction, isolated setting, and real-life story it is based on, it certainly feels like one.

     Foxcatcher follows the real-life story of paranoid schizophrenic heir John Du Pont (Steve Carell) who hires wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to become a part of Team Foxcatcher and win the Olympic gold medal. But once Mark's brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) enters the picture and joins the team as a trainer, things slowly begin to become frictional as they chase to become a winning team.

    I'll start off with the acting. The three main actors are pretty much THE movie and I loved how even though they are playing real-life people, they still managed to turn the people they are portraying into fully-dimensional characters which extends their portrayals beyond simple mimicry. Steve Carell transforms himself both body and mind into the crazed John Du Pont. He can send chills just by the use of his stillness when sitting in his chair and has his fake nose represent how he is like a watchful "bird of prey" or eagle as he is referred to. So, you will not find a trace of the 40-year-old-virgin or Brick Tamland in his performance and I look forward to whatever dramatic work Carell has lined up next. Mark Ruffalo gives an equally astounding and rather heartfelt performance as Dave, the film's voice of reason and is the brother of Mark that acts as his father figure as well. While Carell's performance lives in his appearance as well as his mentality, Ruffalo's performance lives in his eyes. Even as Ruffalo is saying his lines, his eyes still manages to showcase his characters concern and doubt yet they also reveal how he might have the same type of drive to win that John does, but for slightly different reasons. Lastly, and certainly not least, is Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz. Even though Tatum isn't given a whole lot of dialogue, his performance is still reliant on his physicality. It isn't necessarily because of the muscular shape he is in, but because his character's constant thrusting and even self-harm is a representation of his character's primal instinct to win like he is a ferocious wolf or gorilla. Yet there are also subtle layers to be found in his performance as he reveals how he becomes John's robotic drone as well as Mark's inner child. Both of those layers, as well as Mark's primal instincts, make for a very sympathetic character.

     The way I see the title, "Foxcatcher", as well as how John is made to look like an "eagle" and Mark's animalistic tendencies, is that all these traits fit the film's thematic material. The film looks into themes of wealth and greed and through its title and characters, shows how wealth, greed, and the pursuit of victory are all like a ferocious animal. The Foxcatcher Farm is like a big jungle with the characters feeding off of each other for their own benefit and John observing the two brothers as if they are his prey.

     I also liked the direction from Bennett Miller. It was neat how Miller didn't use any dramatic music to fuel the suspense and whenever something involving the characters would seem off, he would still keep the camera rolling, not cutting away from the chilling atmosphere. Not only that, but because John Du Pont was a schizophrenic, Miller manages to delve into his condition without making it too obvious, in my opinion. We get the idea that John has some sort of problem, but it is not forced to us. Plus, the way he directs Carell and Ruffalo makes it seem they are at a subtle tug of war fighting for control over Tatum, who is caught in the middle, with Ruffalo being Tatum's calmer and Carell his inhibitor.

   My one chief complaint, and I'm not the only one that feels this way, is the pacing. This film was a little longer than it needed to be and there were a few things that could've been cut, in my opinion. However, it didn't drag to the point where I almost fell asleep.

   Overall, Foxcatcher is a haunting tour-de-force about how greed, wealth, and the hunger to win are all a ferocious animal. The acting by Carell, Tatum, and Ruffalo is an absolute master-class and their different acting styles should definitely be studied in acting school, in my opinion. The pacing may be a little slow, but the film is a masterclass nevertheless.

    Would I Recommend It?:
    Probably not to everybody. It is very dark and dreary, which won't suit everybody's tastes. But I would say it is worth watching for the actors.

Grade: B+

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