"A Coach is a father, a coach is a mentor, a coach has great power on an athlete's life."
If someone had told me when I walked out of Anchorman 2 that in just over a year the guy that played Brick, the mad, trident wielding, green screen misunderstanding, weatherman, Steve Carell would be nominated for the academy award for best supporting actor… well, why do you think I would’ve said. Actually, I probably still would have said ‘He’s not getting nominated for his role as Brick?’
When Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is hired by athletics enthusiast and billionaire John du Pont (Carell) to lead a team to international glory it appears that he has just grasped the chance of a lifetime. But when his brother (Mark Ruffalo) becomes involved and du Pont’s behaviour becomes increasingly bizarre, his opportunity shapes into a different life changing experience.
At the centre of this film is a study of various psyches, like an educated billionaire having the soul of a rabid animal or an experienced father having extreme ideals or a young, strong man being impressionable and weak willed. Each participant portrays this part perfectly, with Ruffalo, known for being the most intelligent Avenger, becomes shockingly brutal and idealistic. He’s a man who cannot express himself emotionally at all, in fact Dave Schultz is closer to Bruce Banner’s alter ego than anything else.
Channing Tatum is normally a glamorous dramatist or just a comedy actor, but here there is nothing glamourous and certainly not comedic. Like his brother Mark clearly struggles with emotional expression. But he is more aware of his situation, but not at all in control of it. It’s a fascinating idea and Tatum never plays a character with a clear sense of direction. Nor does he make this extravagant or overly dramatic, his performance is stripped down to its raw core.
Steve Carell must be going against ever instinct he has built up as an actor to play this role. Under prosthetics he transforms completely, though there are slight changes to his face I could still tell it was Carell. But his mental portrayal of the character mask that more than any effects could, he brings this dark and broiling man to life. With a schizophrenic personality that utilizes Carell’s comedic and dramatic talents that can turn a humorous exterior into a horrifying soul. It is truly exceptional.
Directorial restraint plays a vital part in this story. Bennett Miller creates a bleak look to the picture that succeeds in sucking out all of the overtones that could damage the film. The whole theme of this story is dealing with the soul, taking away the layers that people use to cover their inner dilemmas.
Perhaps if there is a fault to find with Foxcatcher it’s that the dark and brooding look of the film can subtract from the story slightly. Though it suits the film it can’t help but make the film seem slow paced at times. It appears to be only a slight problem in the final format of the film, but I can’t help but think that the problem would be much worse with three less talented actors. The more I think about it the more I have to admit that the screenplay would feel tedious without the amazing talent and direction to support it.
It also appears to have its priorities mislaid for who should have the main focus. Although Carell is magnificent and never waivers and the film tries to explore his motives, you feel more emotionally connected to Tatum. He’s the human centre of the film compared to Carell’s remarkably inhuman character, so it might benefit from substituting a few scenes du Pont for Schultz as it might add to the emotional connection that, once again, without the stunning performances, I might have lost completely.
Featuring career best performances from Steve Carell and Channing Tatum (Mark Ruffalo is only excluded because he already has many career defining roles, but this one is equal to them as well), Foxcatcher is shockingly brutal and expertly shot, spots drama of the highest order.