“Coach is the father. Coach is a mentor. Coach has great power on athlete’s life.”
When Bennett Miller made Capote, I remember I liked it and thought it was a reasonable enough choice for its Best Picture nomination and Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Best Actor win at the Oscars. But it’s not a movie I thought about much after it’s time past, and I’ve never felt the need to see it again. But Miller’s follow up, Moneyball, really made me take notice of the director.
It wasn’t about playing baseball, it wasn’t even about coaching baseball, it was about the back room dealings of managing baseball. That sounds pretty boring, add to that the story’s other a major aspect, maths and stats, and it really is shocking how entertaining Moneyball ended up being. Entertaining enough that when I heard Bennett Miller had a new movie on the way, I was immediately excited for Foxcatcher.
Olympic wrestling gold medalist Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) lives a pretty shitty life. His house is a dump, he’s stuck in the shadow of his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), also an Olympic gold winning wrestler, and he’s resorted to giving the world’s worst motivational speeches to inattentive school kids so he can make rough money for a fast food lunch on the way home. But he finds salvation in billionaire, John Du Pont (Steve Carell).
Awkward, creepy, egotistical and just plain weird, John Du Pont uses his family’s massive fortune to build a wrestling training facility on their farm, Foxcatcher. With Mark as his first recruit, he builds a successful team and even wins a world title. But one Schultz brother isn’t enough, Du Pont wants Dave as well. After a brief period of happiness, Mark thinks he’s finally found a father figure and independence from his brother, Dave is working at Team Foxcatcher as well. So Mark is soon caught between his two mentors, as Du Pont’s desire to win becomes increasingly unhealthy.
John Du Pint is a sad, sad character. Apparently Carell watched hours of footage of the real Du Pont to get into it. If his portrayal is in any way accurate, that just makes things even sadder. Channing Tatum’s Mark Schultz is the main character of Foxcatcher, but Carell as Du Pont gets the shining role. It’s the kind of squirmy, ugly performance that I assume a comic actor dreams of when they decide they want to be taken seriously as a dramatic actor.
Foxcatcher has a lot going for it. A stranger than fiction true story, an awesome cast, and a director who has figured out how to be a prestige film maker with very few movies under his belt. And it pretty much lives up to what I expected and what I wanted from that pedigree. It’s scored Oscar nominations in a couple of big categories, but no one’s picking it as a favourite in any of them. And I get that. Foxcatcher efficiently ticks all the boxes without really blowing my mind in any way. And that’s sort of sums up this year’s Oscar picks. There are seemingly no obvious front runners. Because while everything is better than good, nothing is outright amazing.