Foxcatcher (2014) [Review]

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The greatest Olympic Wrestling Champion brother team joins Team Foxcatcher lead by multimillionaire sponsor John E. du Pont as they train for the 1988 games in Seoul – a union that leads to unlikely circumstances.

7/10 – First off, if you know nothing about the true story that the film is based on, do not try and seek it out. It will spoil the film for you knowing what is coming. Secondly, this film is shrouded in controversy ever since Mark Schultz, Olympic Gold Medal Wrestler of whom the film is based on, has decided to flip on his previous support for the film and trash it publicly citing, “Everything I’ve ever said positive about the movie I take back, I hate it.

His reasons are understandable, if not resulting from reacting to something a little irrationally. The anger stems from a certain scene in which a sexual undertone is apparently detected between him and John Du Pont, an undertone that I did not pick up on and nor did many critics. However, a few did, and considering the outcome of the actual story you can forgive him for being angry. A quick check on History vs Hollywood shows many inaccuracies, but the fundamental question here is whether the story has been told respectfully and honestly, conveying the same messages true to life? You can be forgiven for specific chronological errors, it is all part of artistic licence to condense a story, but if it damages the true events to the extent that they have been completely changed, then questions need to be asked. Mark Schultz feels that this has happened, hence why he is trying to distance himself from it.

From a reviewing perspective, that is neither here nor there. I watched the film to see what all the hype was about, if I wanted to be informed I would have sought out an article describing what had happened and that would have been that. From an ‘entertainment’ purpose, in the loosest of terms considering how dark and strange the film is, it struggles to ever really get going, but that is the point. It is dragged out to nearly 2 hours, and has been portrayed in such a bleak manner with such restraint that it teeters of the brink of boredom, yet it’s relenting creepiness does its best to keep you engaged until the end.

Steve Carell steps away from comedic roles to give a memorable performance as the increasingly odd John Du Pont, opposite Channing Tatum fresh off his 22 Jump Street success who gives arguably his best performance of his career as Mark Schultz. What follows throughout the film is minimal dialogue, intense staring and results in a chilling back and forth between the two leads. It is quietly disturbing, and a fascinating portrayal of real life events.

However, after watching it and getting over the initial shock of what had transpired, I cannot help but think Mark Schultz had a point. The film focussed on his failures, showed his dependencies on his brother, made him seem a lot closer to Du Pont than reality and as such made him come across as a naive man. I’m not one to nit-pick at inaccuracies, it is a slippery slope and one that can ruin movies for you entirely. But perhaps if it was spliced with his successes, told in the correct chronological order and provided more time to the excellent Mark Ruffalo, the ending much like real life, would have been even more shocking. In turn, the bleak film I just endured, might not have been as much of a chore as it felt.

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