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Movie Review: Foxcatcher
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Adam Frazier   |  @   |  
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Foxcatcher Movie Review

Foxcatcher
Director: Bennett Miller
Screenwriters: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave
Sony Pictures Classics
Rated R | 134 Minutes
Release Date: December 19, 2014

“Some rich guy calls you on the phone, ‘I want Mark Schultz to come visit me.’ Well, I’m a – I’m a wrestling coach. And I have a deep love for the sport of wrestling. And I wanted to speak with you about your future, about what you hope to achieve. What do you hope to achieve, Mark?”

Directed by Bennett Miller (Moneyball), Foxcatcher is the story of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and paranoid-schizophrenic millionaire coach John du Pont (Steve Carell), who murdered Schultz’s brother, Olympic Champion Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), in 1996.

In 1984, both Mark and Dave Schultz won Olympic Gold in wrestling events. After the ’84 Olympics, Mark began training for the ’88 Olympics in Seoul with little support. Being a wrestling enthusiast, du Pont invited the struggling athlete to his lavish estate, where Mark would live in order to train full-time.

Miller focuses on the multimillionaire’s relationship with Mark, and how they both became unhinged by internal and external pressures and expectations. Foxcatcher operates as a chilling true crime drama and an biographical film, but it’s really a character study with three incredible performances at its core. Tatum, Carell, and Ruffalo elevate the straightforward script by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman with turns that express the fragility of the human psyche, and how vulnerable we really are.

The Schultz brothers won more NCAA, U.S. Open, World, and Olympic titles than any American brother combination in history. Miller goes beyond the athlete-as-inspirational-hero motif and gets under Mark Schultz’s skin, examining the insecurities beneath and how du Pont exploited them. It’s a film of desire and loneliness – of obsession and jealousy – that spirals into devastating madness.

Miller, who directed 2005’s Capote, has crafted his own In Cold Blood with Foxcatcher. It’s an intelligent, sympathetic dissection of an American tragedy, lovingly rendered and beautifully balanced. Wrestling is not a sport you can fake on film – especially when it involves Olympic athletes. You can fake throwing a punch, but wrestling demands technique and physicality, and the wrestling scenes in Foxcatcher are impressive because of the commitment Tatum and Ruffalo display in portraying the sport.

Equally impressive is Carell’s turn as a dangerous and deeply disturbed man. Nobody expected du Pont to murder anyone – and Miller plays with our expectations by casting an endearing comedic actor as a cold and manipulative coach who inspires his wrestlers by brandishing firearms. Transformed by incredible makeup effects, Carell disappears into the role – surprising us at every turn, never less than mesmerizing.

Foxcatcher is one of the year’s best films. Intense and suspenseful, it is emotionally precise in its storytelling and flawless in its execution. A Bennett Miller film should never go unseen – he is one America’s finest filmmakers, mining the depths of his ensemble to unearth layered and painfully real performances that will stick with you long after you’ve left the theater.

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