fri 12/08/2022

DVD: Foxcatcher | reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Foxcatcher

DVD: Foxcatcher

Stand-out performance from Steve Carell in potent Oscar-nominated psychological drama

John du Pont (Steve Carell, right) coaches Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) in 'Foxcatcher'

As he died in 2010, we can never know what John du Pont was like in person, but if Steve Carell’s rendering of the maniacal American multi-millionaire with a wrestling fixation is even close to the real thing, the experience must have been disturbing. Foxcatcher, the story of du Pont’s immersion in wrestling, is disquieting but Carell stands out. Creepiness defines every moment he is on screen.

Foxcatcher draws from the real-life story of du Pont, the heir to his family’s fortune. He wrote books on ornithology, donated money to good causes and was also increasingly consumed by an interest in wrestling. At his Foxcatcher farm, he built a training facility, which attracted Olympic champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). The goal was to create a team fit for 1988’s Seoul Olympics. In time, du Pont also brought Mark’s elder brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), another well-known wrestler, to the farm. The film centres on the intense, twisted dynamic between the three.

For Carell, playing du Pont is potentially career-shifting. The direct, bordering on deadpan, delivery is recognisable and builds massively on his performance in 2013's The Way Way Back. But this powerful performance proves he no longer has to be constrained by the humorous. Tatum is almost as strong as Schultz, the out-of-his-depth young man seduced by du Pont’s overtures and money. An almost-unrecognisable Ruffalo is nuanced as Dave Schultz, the character rocking what is already an uneven keel even further.

In common with director Bennett Miller’s previous film Moneyball, a sports milieu is the backdrop for the psychological drama. But Foxcatcher is closer to his Capote (2005), which was suffused with a similar air of unreality and intensity. There are also palpable echoes of Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master. Miller was awarded a Cannes’ Palme d'Or for Foxcatcher but, although nominated in multiple categories at this year’s Academy Awards, the film did not snag any Oscars.

DVD extras include some inessential deleted scenes. The making-of featurette has to be seen though – not before the film – as it reveals the lengths Miller went to with his research (Dave Schultz’s wife and Mark Schultz assisted with the film). Even without knowing this, Foxcatcher’s potency is undiminished.

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