Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Foxcatcher Review

How do you define the American Dream? Can there possibly be only one universal definition of such a vague ideal that we strive for? I always hear this concept tossed around, the idea that a person was "searching for the American Dream" but I would imagine the word "the" should actually be changed to "their", because how can we all be searching and striving for the same thing?

In some seemingly important respects, John du Pont (Steve Carell) had everything, as he was a member of a family that obsessed over obtaining both wealth and power and he was not lacking in either department. To many, a simple glance at a place like Foxcatcher Farms and you would assume that whoever was lucky enough to call it home must be a perfect example of someone who achieved the American Dream, yet John's dream was not yet complete. Right there, at the very place he called home, John du Pont had a state of the art wrestling training facility built, where he hoped to assemble a team of athletes that he could send to and hopefully dominate the world championships. What's the point of having power if you aren't able to use it?

When we meet Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), we aren't following an origin story of his journey to a gold medal in the 84' Olympics. That has already happened, and what is quickly established is that such a thing isn't always as life changing as it seems through the television screen in that moment of athletic glory. Both Mark and his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), also a gold medal winner in the same Olympics but a different weight class, continue on with their lives as normal despite their success on the world's biggest stage. John du Pont enters their lives when he contacts Mark and offers him the chance to move his life to Foxcatcher Farms and join the team, along with a salary of $25,000 which is a paltry sum to a man like du Pont but to Schultz, despite the gold medal dangling around his neck, it is an exciting and enticing offer. Getting paid for what he loves and feeling desired because of his abilities. That was Mark Schultz's American Dream.

Foxcatcher is a dark, brooding and absolutely fantastic film on so many levels. It can be enjoyed simply as a exercise in using mood and setting to send shivers down the audiences spine. It is a fascinating character study with amazing character building and comprehension without even taking a lot of time to develop them. We learn who these people, both the Schultz brothers along with John du Pont, are because of the spectacular across the board performances and stunningly paced screenplay that never feels rushed yet also moves with a brisk and entertaining flow. It is an example of top notch, confident direction by Bennett Miller who knows just how to follow and frame his subjects, just how to meticulously craft an artful film yet keep it accessible for anyone willing to watch.

Since this is a true story, I knew exactly what would happen in the end as I had read about the tragic result of the jealous, unstable relationship between John du Pont and the Schultz brothers, but it doesn't matter as you actually watch the events unfold. Personally I was sucked into the ominous tone and the nuanced, measured performances, of which I hold the likely unpopular opinion that Channing Tatum as Mark was the strongest of the bunch despite both Carell and Ruffalo being recognized with Oscar nominations. This isn't to diminish their work, no one missed a single beat here, but for all the flack Tatum gets from people due to some poor films he did in the past, the guy absolutely delivers with a perfectly unsettling turn here.

What is my version of the American Dream? I know this much, it doesn't include wrestling or a man like John du Pont. I will gladly revisit this film though, that I consider to be time well spent.


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