“The following is based on a true story.”
I’ll be honest, this kind of a disclaimer doesn’t always sound good to me. I tend to prefer movies that are over the top, fantastical, wildly imaginative… As for biopics, they’re one of my least favorite genres. But there are some film based on real people and real events that manage to be all those things I love. As they say, truth can be stranger than fiction…
Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo star as gold medal-winning wrestlers Mark and Dave Schultz. “Foxcatcher” deals with how in the lead-up to the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Mark and later Dave accepted millionaire John “Eagle” du Pont (Steve Carell)’s Team Foxcatcher and… Well, in case you don’t know what happened in real life, I’ll let you discover it when you watch the film, which you definitely should.
Winner of the Prix de la mise en scène at the Cannes Film Festival, “Foxcatcher” is the opposite of an inspirational sports movie. Slow and quiet, with shadowy cinematography, an elegiac score and editing that favors slow-burn intensity over cheap thrills, this third feature by Bennett Miller (who previously directed two other films based on true stories, “Capote” and “Moneyball”) is fueled by anger, envy and delusion.
Even though it’s much less flashy, it reminded me somewhat of “Boogie Nights”, another story about an ambitious but naive hunk who’s taken in by a rich old man, and a bit of “Behind the Candelabra”, which also depicted a creepy, homoerotic mentor-protégé relationship. The ominous feeling of most scenes, the stuffed birds and du Pont’s unhealty relationship with his mother (Vanessa Redgrave) made me think of “Psycho”, of all things. And at times, du Pont is pretty much as ridiculous and pathetic as Michael Scott on “The Office”!
If it wasn’t for the shockingly tragic ending, you could almost have made a comedy out of “Foxcatcher”. Alas, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman’s screenplay is mostly humorless, for better or worse. In any case, Bennett Miller’s direction is truly masterful and Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo and Steve Carrell all deliver exceptional performances.