Film Review: Foxcatcher

There are some films that instantly capture you, that draw you in whether by reputation, name or that brief visual hint of the treasures they hold, commanding to be seen and not having to work to win you over. Foxcatcher was certainly not one of these. The moment I saw the initial trailer I was torn, captions of “transformative performances” mirroring images of hardly recognisable actors seeming to demand my time but it was set in the American institution of wrestling, a sport that have never crossed the Atlantic, and besides the choreography of television wrestling never interested me.

And yet, the nearer it came to release the more reviews, thoughts and opinions that started to leak, the more I started to ponder, to think, to rejudge. Yes Foxcatcher is obsessed with wrestling, but one constant hum followed that statement: wrestling is just the environment into which a story worth seeing is placed. I still wasn’t won over, I still just felt that nagging, niggling doubt in the back of my mind. But it’s Tuesday and that means cheap cinema tickets and with such a tide of unabridged praise, it seemed giving it a chance wasn’t an overly dangerous risk to take.

Steve Carell & Channing Tatum - Foxcatcher

The first most noticeable thing is the visual transformation of the leading characters Steve Carell and Channing Tatum. There is a lot of prosthetic work in force at the head of this film. And in fact, I have even read an article proclaiming Carell to be an Oscar tip not because of his performance but because he stuck a fake nose on his face. Their point backed up by examples of previous winners!

But the transformations for me are too removed from reality. Yes Carell looks nothing like the usual skinny, slightly gaunt actor we’re used to seeing, and Tatum seems more Neanderthal and devolved that usual but the change just didn’t work. I constantly just saw a rubbery complexion and an overriding sense of non organics. It’s almost as though they, Carell especially, has lost the natural fluidity and flexibility of human skin. I never felt comfortable because I could never see past the fakeness. I could never really relax and accept. It’s a constant elephant in the room.

And it’s so annoying because the performances they give are good. They’re not great, but it’s hard to say they drag the film down. I felt that both actors were giving performances of note working with, and bringing their, respective parts to life as best they could, but it’s nothing you won’t see equalled or bettered else were though and neither in my opinion will win an Oscar, but neither the less, you can’t overly criticise them.

Sadly though, there is one huge, fundamental, film destroying problem. Foxcatcher just isn’t very interesting. In fact as the credits rolled the gentlemen in the back row let our an audible sigh, turned to his partner and bluntly stated “Well, that was shit”. And I hate to admit it, but I agree with him. I would like to go a little bit further and quantify that by saying, shit may be lightly too strong an adjective, but the sentiment was correct.

Firstly, the film is so far removed from the trailer in terms of tone and tension. There isn’t any. This film isn’t dramatic or twisting, it’s just a metronomic ticking; waiting, wanting, for anything to happen. The trailer gives you an idea that this film explodes into life; a tale that will move you to the edge of your seat and keep you in suspense. Instead all you get is 130 minutes of idle monotony. It lacks any real tension, and the few moments of emotion it does try and convey never land. Instead just feeling apologetic. I never reached the point of actually looking at my watch to see how long was left, but that was mainly because I didn’t want to know. Ignorance of how much longer I had to endure being a better pleasure than the story I was being served up on screen.

I think I know why the story fell so flat though. Foxcatcher feels dead behind the eyes. And for a film that is actually about how we look at each other, the relationships, bonds, love and approvals we constantly look to build, crave and need, it just has no depth, no warmth, no passion. Which is such a shame. It honestly feels like director Bennett Miller and writers E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman made this film because the thought the story would sell rather than because they were interested in the motives and reasons behind it.

Mark Ruffalo - Foxcatcher

There is a seriously powerful psychological film screaming to get out from within but no desire for those with the power to let it speak to entitle it to it’s voice.

All is not lost though, because while so much of this film is disappointing and a far removed let down from even that portrayed by the trailer, Mark Ruffalo deserves every ounce of praise coming his way. He is everything this film claimed to be on the posters: stunning, transformative and powerful. As a character he comes across likeable, approachable and most importantly real. I liked him in Begin Again, I loved him in this. He truly is the shining light in this film and arguably the only good thing salvaged from it. If any acting awards are heading towards this film, then he is the only deserving recipient.

I’m so disappointed by Foxcatcher. Not because it didn’t live up to expectation, it never won me over enough to start with to actually create any, but because I gave it a chance and it didn’t even try.

5 out of 10 stars (5 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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