Cannes 2014: Tatum & Carell Are Outstanding in Miller's 'Foxcatcher'
by Alex Billington
May 19, 2014
It's a breath of fresh air in the cinema when a film premieres that is very hard to compare to any other films. It represents something entirely unique, in the story, the characters, the subtle decisions made throughout, and while it may be categorized as a sports drama, it is so much more. Foxcatcher is the third feature film from Bennett Miller, and it is his best work yet, showing that he continues to improve as he continues to make more films. Following his last two Best Picture-nominated films, Capote and Moneyball, Miller tells another based-on-real-life story that resonates as poignantly today as it did when the events first occurred.
After winning two gold medals in wrestling at the 1984 Olympics, brothers Mark (Channing Tatum) and David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), begin training again. Soon after, the extremely wealthy sports enthusiast John E. du Pont (Steve Carell), heir to the DuPont chemicals & gunpowder company, took an interest in Mark and recruited him to train at his estate known as Foxcatcher Farm in Pennsylvania. Du Pont began to coach Mark, exhibiting bizarre behavior during their time together, eventually figuring out how to bribe his brother David into joining him to help coach wrestlers on his Foxcatcher team. This is where the real story begins, as the film follows the dark, eerie, odd events involving these three, eventually leading to murder.
What makes Foxcatcher inherently fascinating is all of the pieces of the puzzle behind this rather poignant murder story, from the various players and motives, to their actions and responses over the course of a few years time. Bennett Miller, already experienced with sports storytelling, once again crafts a very intimate character study, that while gorgeously made has a brooding, unsettling undertone to it linked directly to du Pont's madness. He's a creeper, and Carell brings that disquieting, "there's something wrong with this guy" feeling to him, hiding beneath a prosthetic nose and make-up to complete the image. It's effective, and it's ever-so-engrossing and heartbreaking to watch the events unfold knowing where it all leads to in the end.
Aside from the filmmaking, the performances in particular are phenomenal. Channing Tatum is exceptional, taking on the role completely, both physically and mentally, and becoming Mark Schulz in every sense. The wrestling scenes, which are plentiful but not excessive, are surprisingly entertaining to watch and accurately devised. Steve Carell is right there behind Mark, really pushing himself to find nuances of psychotic depth behind the nose, though I did feel at times he was simply trying too hard behind the make-up. Finally, Mark Ruffalo takes on his role with as much care and concern as the others and gives us even more to love about Foxcatcher. Miller is just as skilled at capturing fine performances as he as telling unique cinematic stories.
Foxcatcher excels especially in the way it takes a twisted, troubled story of passion, money and greed from the 1980's and makes it poignant and meaningful for today's times, too, while respecting the real people it's about. Without putting in any contrived references, Miller lets the mood and feel of the chilling story speak for itself. Watching one man attempt to buy talent and use them to amass more trophies for his collections is one of those experiences that buries itself into our minds, making us wonder how this all happened, how he's getting away with it, and how this kind of person even exists. By the end, I felt awash with both disgust and intrigue, moved by how much reflection Miller packs into this in subtle, masterful ways. It's a winner.
Alex's Cannes Rating: 9 out of 10