Foxcatcher is an actor’s dream. Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo accept the challenge presented to them and thrive in their respective roles. Steve Carrell as John Du Pont or ‘Eagle’ as he nicknames himself is always creepy with dark undertones. The minute he appears onscreen, we are on edge and the film becomes even darker than it already was. There’s a sort of inevitability whenever he’s on screen and you just know something bad is going to happen. Tatum and Ruffalo play Olympic Gold Medalists the Schwartz brothers and you just want the two siblings to run the other way as soon as they are approached by the not-all-there millionaire.
Du Pont has an emptiness inside of him that no amount of money could buy. He wanted to be more in life and do things that would make him a man’s man; things his mother would never let him do. Now that his mother is almost out of the picture, Carrell as Du Pont pretty much attempts to buy his friendships and become the man he always wanted to be. He gets inside Tatum’s head and feeds him some lines about being patriotic and bringing American wrestling back to where it used to be. Du Pont tells the younger Schwartz sibling, Mark, everything he wants and needs to hear at the moment.
Du Pont’s mother always viewed wrestling as a sport that was underneath their status. Now that Du Pont is over 50, he attempts to buy his way into the sport even going as far as paying off his opponents so he could ‘earn’ his victories.
It has many themes from a regular sports drama, including Tatum’s training sessions and some motivational speeches, but this is in no way that type of film. Carrell and even Tatum are way too intense for that type of film. The only one who is actually happy with his life and is the most satisfied is Mark Ruffalo as the older Schwartz brother Dave. It usually is the nicest people who suffer the worst fate and in this film things also play out that way. The ending is heartbreaking but like I said, you also see it coming as soon as the brothers get involved with Du Pont. You want to slap both of the brothers at times and ask them what are they thinking, turn around and walk away from this man.
It’s not just Mark and Dave who are oblivious to how odd Du Pont was acting, but everyone around the man also turned their head. Du Pont had a lot of money and had friends in high places to the point that even the local law enforcement let him do whatever he wanted. Everything Du Pont did showed signs of a person who wasn’t all there, I guess no one wanted to step in; at least not until it was too late.
Channing Tatum takes his game to a whole new level as Mark Schultz. There’s anger and desperation from Tatum at the beginning of the film and you see exactly why he begins to see Du Pont as a mentor almost from the start. He certainly has an inferiority complex when it comes to his older brother even though they both have gold medals. Ruffalo’s Dave may have more wisdom and a mentor role, but Tatum has the body and the raw talent yet it’s almost not good enough for him. It seems Tatum’s Mark has a chip on his shoulder throughout the movie. This is the most intense Tatum has ever been. It’s such a physical and demanding role and yet Tatum is up for the challenge.
Steve Carrell as John Du Pont is buried under heavy prosthetics but it’s not just some cheap trick. Even though the man disappears into the role and at times you don’t even see Carrell, the small nuances and the subtle ways Carrell acts and reacts is what really makes this such a special performance. There’s always that sadness, loneliness and creepiness, especially when the man smiles or laughs.
It’s hard to pick the best performance of the three but I believe Tatum takes the cake. Not to take away from Carrell’s performance but Tatum isn’t buried under heavy make-up or prosthetics. All of the intensity and anger and physicality, that’s all Tatum and he has never been better. Ruffalo is also great but when you have both Tatum and Carrell hitting grand slams, well yeah he’s going to get overshadowed even if he also hit a home run.
We see Tatum at odds with his brother throughout the film and yet Ruffalo never returns the hostility. He is always warm and embraces his little brother no matter what. Just when you think Ruffalo might be too much of a pushover, he reminds you and his little brother just what he’s capable of as he smacks some sense into Tatum. As far as Ruffalo goes, there is no sibling rivalry, he just wants the best for his little brother, even when he strays away and gives in to his demons. The same demons that all of us are close to embracing at times.
This is a dark film, there really is no laughter to be found in it. It’s much too disturbing and uncomfortable to find anything in the film funny. Yet despite that, I still loved it. The three lead actors are personal favorites of mine so of course I would lean that way, plus it also has that wrestling element which is a weakness of mine. I find myself wanting to see it again immediately which is surprising since it is so uncomfortable and ugly at times. Now it’s not an ugly film, what I meant was that it has some ugly acts/scenes and of course Carrell’s Du Pont is just an ugly human being both inside and out. This review is all over the place but I feel like the film was as well, again, not in a bad way. The anchor though, what holds it all together are the lead performances. Each actor knocks it out of the park and hopefully they will be rewarded for it.