Every December, the most anticipated films of the year hit theaters with high hopes of Oscar nominations and strong audience support. Earlier this year director Bennett Miller (Moneyball, Capote) was awarded the best director prize at the Cannes International Film Festival for Foxcatcher. Months later, the press and reviewers at TIFF raged about the new film. While I pay great respects to these festivals and the cinematic minds behind them, I found myself pinned under high expectations that didn’t make it through the third round.
Wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), lived under the shadows and success of his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Dave had the respect, family, and awards in his trophy case. Mark seemingly had nothing to call his own, starting the film in a dark single bedroom apartment with a twin sized mattress. Enter John du Pont (Steve Carell), a wealthy man struggling to win the love and respect of his mother, whom has relied on expensive horses for her own sense of identity and pride. John meets Mark, and Mark falls in love with the inspiration and pride of the “Golden Eagle”, as du Pont self-righteously proclaims himself. Team Foxcatcher evolves and begins training for the next Olympic games. There are a few subplots that form, including hesitation from Dave about uprooting his family to join the team, as the entire audience quickly realizes that he is the secret sauce to Mark’s success. Despite all circumstances, spamming from world championships to family legacy, there is a glooming sadness throughout the film that is incredibly evident; John du Pont drinking on the porch alone, Mark’s empty personality that opens no doors into his true feelings. Through the entirety of the film, I had no emotional connection to anyone in the film; and while each of these respected actors did a fascinating job in roles that were far from typical for each of them, what lacked was depth of story, emotional investment, and collective experience. I give credit where it’s deserved, as the physical performances by Ruffalo and Tatum, who seemed as though they had been built for the wrestling mat with incredible physique and bulky stature, were intense and liberating. The cinematography in the film was as good as expected, with extended shots of characters sitting or standing in isolation, leaving an eerie sense of solitude throughout the film. What Foxcatcher lacked in story was poorly compensated by an abundance of neck muscle and cauliflower ear. And while this film captures the essence of obsession in search of purpose, the lack of a strong character development or rising plot left me tapping out.