Movie Review – “Foxcatcher” (2014) – Prosthetic Noses and Foxes

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It has been a day since I watched “Foxcatcher” and I am still not sure how to feel about it.

There were certainly good aspects to the adaptation of John E. DuPont’s obsession with wrestler Mark Schultz, and even great aspects that make the film worth watching. But then there are other points that left me confused and uninterested in several parts of the film.

Perhaps it is the undeniably creepy and off-putting atmosphere combine with the slow pacing throughout the film that makes some scenes unclear. Or it might be the lack of dialogue and letting the tension rise through Steve Carell’s out-of-character performance. Most likely, it is a combination of both.

Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is an Olympic Gold-Medal wrestler, and wants to be seen as the greatest fighter in the world, even better than his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Mark gets his chance when John E. DuPont (Steve Carell) of the DuPont family dynasty takes up an interest in wrestling and wants to train Mark for the World Championship and the Olympics. As time goes on though, John seems to take more than a special interest in Mark and sees him as more than just wrestler and friend.

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To start off, “Foxcatcher” is dripping in an unsettling atmosphere, while still having the tension be so thin that you could cut it with a butter knife. Both Mark and John are unhinged and obsessed with achieving their goals, no matter what the costs may be. If they can’t get what they want, they will beat themselves up, or beat anyone nearby.

Steve Carell’s performance deserves the Oscar nomination, as it is other worldly at times. Channeling a bit of his inner Norman Bates, we get a character who wants to out-do his own legacy and be remembered as his own man, and not just another DuPont. Yet he still has the mindset of a spoiled child, obsessed with toys and sports and will use his money to get what he wants.

This leads him to claiming certain things as his “property” without realizing the ramifications.

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However, “Foxcatcher” does suffer from pacing problems, especially at the beginning of the film. For the first thirty minutes, we watch Mark wander around his hometown trying to make a living and being generally unhappy that he only has Top Ramen to eat. Later on, there are scenes where Mark and John share about two lines of dialogue and go no where. This is still quite unsettling, but there is a limit to all of that.

But my biggest complaint with “Foxcatcher” is how disjointed and unconnected many scenes are. For example, there is a scene where John enters in a wrestling tournament, that he supposedly paid off so that he could win, and then rubs it in his mother’s face. While this does explain more of his character, that scene is never brought up again and ended as quickly as it started. Several points in the movie will remain unexplained and confusing. Combine this with the slow pacing, and there are some scenes where I stopped caring about the film altogether.

“Foxcatcher” offers up a fascinating experience, through the excellent atmosphere and performances always giving a sense of gloom and uncertainty. While I suppose the pacing and disconnected scenes add to this, they do take away from the film. There is a difference between unsettling and confusing, and “Foxcatcher” seems to get the two mixed up often.

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That being said, there is still plenty of great things to enjoy about “Foxcatcher,” even the lack of dialogue throughout the majority of the film helps contribute to how bizarre the film can be. It is certainly worth your time and I recommend “Foxcatcher” to those who enjoy a film where they’re not sure what is going on.

Final Grade: B

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