Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Film: 'Foxcatcher'

Moderately interesting, fact-based story of two professional wrestler brothers training under the tutelage of a scion of 'the richest family in America' who wants them to capture gold at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
Based on a book of the experiences of Mark Schulz, the younger brother, I had no inkling of this celebrated story - and if I'd known just the title of his book beforehand it would have pretty well given away the unexpected shock I received which comes very near the end of this film.

I hardly ever care for films where sport, any sport, takes centre stage. They invariably spend the time building up to a major competition at the end - and, as it is here, there's nothing more 'major' than the Olympics! The films always follow a tortuous path leading up to a big event, taking in the central players' highs and the lows on the way. So it is with this film, though I'm pleased to report that the showing of actual wrestling matches does not dominate, and none at all of these several scenes is extended. The true main concern here is the dynamics and drama between the three leads - Channing Tatum (emotionally withdrawn and envious of his brother's success), Steve Carrell (as the multi-billionaire mentor, creepy, dangerous and always simmering right on the edge of boiling over - and looking almost unrecognisable) - and Mark Ruffalo as David Schulz, the elder brother (liberal with his bearish hugs, particularly to his kid bro), full bearded, and looking woofier than he's ever looked, which alone is really saying something.

There are only two females in the film, both in the slightest of roles. Vanessa Redgrave plays the horse-loving, wrestling-disapproving matriarch, mother to Carrell's character, and who appears briefly and silently in a couple of scenes, and saying a few words in just a single one. With even less to say, and totally wasted, is Sienna Miller as Ruffalo's wife. (Did she end up mostly on the cutting room floor?)

The real Mark Schulz, on whose book this is based, has actually disowned the film in a spluttering rage, because of the way director Bennett Miller ( who also directed Philip Seymour Hoffman's 'Capote') has portrayed him through the Channing Tatum role. His indignation seems to stem from a subtext of implied attraction between the younger brother's character and his wealthy benefactor, who, I take it, he resents as being portrayed as  something of a sugar daddy towards him. If I hadn't known this beforehand I would have picked up on an implied erotic attraction from the apparently celibate Carrell character towards Tatum's, despite the fact that nothing on these lines is even slightly hinted at verbally - except for maybe a time when Carrell states that he's never had a true 'friend' until meeting Tatum. On the other side, I didn't detect anything at all to imply that, if indeed there had been any attraction between the two, that it was mutual. In any case, if the real Mark Schulz denies it so vehemently then it couldn't possibly be true. Matter closed!
Btw: The film's title is the name of Carrell's wrestling club, referring to his hippophilic mother's fondness for the hunt. (Oh dear!)

If I hadn't been knocked back by seeing a picture of Ruffalo in full beard (you'll have to look him up) I may well have given this film a miss. As it turned out, it certainly wasn't as bad as it could have been for me. In fact I wasn't at all bored despite its inordinate two and a quarter hours' length. In summary, quite good to watch but I wouldn't recommend going out of ones way to catch it.......................6.


  1. this event happened only 1 hour from my home.

    1. Holy mackerel, A.M.! You'll therefore have been very familiar with the whole story and will have every reason to want to see this film then.

  2. Ray,
    I remember when this story occurred. Like Anne Marie, this event was only hours from my home in southeastern Pennsylvania and was all over the news with the implied homoerotic undertakings, which, from the reviews I've read of this film, they have played down. I will watch this film because I like all the actors in it. I was wondering how they would make the handsome Steve Carrell (who I've always had the hots for) unattractive and more like the creeping John DuPont but from the photo I see on your blog, they have succeeded. By the way, if you like Mark Ruffalo, you will definitely have to see "The Normal Heart." While Mark isn't my type, he is fantastic in that film.

    1. Ron, it's interesting that the attraction from Carrell to Tatum has been 'played down' (which is something that the former also says in interviews over here) because in this film I can't see how anyone can fail to pick up on it. But if that's what they say....
      I have always found Carrell good-looking - he was particularly scrumptious sporting a beard and playing gay in 'Little Miss Sunshine' (2006) which is recommended by yours truly if you haven't already watched. However, most of his other films have been, unfortunately, in the forgettable category.
      However, when onscreen in 'Foxcatcher' and even knowing it was him I still found it hard to believe who it was, that nose making such a difference without drawing attention to itself.

      'The 'Normal Heart' will be on my list of 'wannawatches' until it does appear again on TV, so it's really in the hands of the channel gods.

  3. Another articulate review, I confess I had to resort to the dictionary for 'hippophilic'.

    I remember the Schulz brothers as Olympic wrestlers. Years ago I read a story about this incident in Vanity Fair and found it fascinating. I confess I am inclined toward stories royals and the super-rich behaving badly so this is on my list to see. I've always liked Carrell. His comedies have been hit or miss and his ventures in romcom, the only dramatic work I've seen, have been earnest but forgettable. It'll be interesting to see what he does with an actual dramatic role.

    1. I think everyone who knows his previous film must agree that Carrell excels in this one, H.K. He's a character to which anyone with an ounce of discernment would give a wide berth - and, as I say, if it hadn't been being aware of it beforehand, it would have been some time before I recognised who the actor was.
      I think he ought to give more time in future to these straight dramas where, on this evidence, he's capable of producing something rare.

      You are candid in revealing your penchant for stories of famous persons behaving badly. Must admit it's a guilty pleasure of mine, too.
      It's said here that America is a place where success is celebrated whereas we Brits like to see a 'successful' person get his/her come-uppance - part of an envy, I'd suggest. I'd be very surprised if just about everyone doesn't have an element of wanting to see such a person come a cropper, It's one of the foibles of human nature.