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REVIEW: ‘Foxcatcher’ can’t decide if it’s a sports film or not

(Poster provided by movieposterdb.com)

(Poster provided by movieposterdb.com)

Annapurna Pictures’ “Foxcatcher” is the true crime-drama story of billionaire John Du Pont (Steve Carell) and his relationship with Olympic gold winning wrestlers Mark (Channing Tatum) and David (Mark Rufallo) Schultz. It covers the years that the Schultz brothers spent training at Du Pont’s property Foxcatcher farms.

The film attempts to be a study on themes such as obsession, broken relationships and mental illness. Unfortunately, it falls short on all accounts as it struggles to understand what kind of film it actually is.

Through the first act and most of the second act, you think you are watching a sports film, but even that doesn’t quite describe it. The feel is so much darker than a sports film ever would be. Instead of feeling inspired by the events in the first two acts, you are left both wanting more and feeling sorry for the characters involved. Even when the Schultz brothers meet DuPont – something that is incredibly beneficial to them – there is a morose feeling.

Another example of this bleakness is during the Olympic trials. This is the event the Schultz brothers have been training for the majority of the film. However, when the film gets to it, I didn’t feel a particular attachment to the brothers.

Toward the end of the second act, the film takes an abrupt turn and I finally understood that I may, in fact, not be watching a sports film. The focus is no longer on athletic activities, which at this point was the only thing keeping the façade of a sports film alive. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t replace the failed genre with another. Instead, we are left confused and wondering what the film is about.

The last half hour or so meanders along, not really gaining any momentum in a particular direction. With minutes left in the film, the true crime part of the story finally comes to fruition, but it is far too late to be satisfying. It creates the feeling of being robbed.

The worst thing about “Foxcatcher” is it didn’t just suffer from identity crisis. The acting performances were less than top-notch all around. Carell’s performance as Du Pont held a lot of promise as a break from comedic roles but fell devastatingly short (as I could never quite get over seeing him as Michael Scott or one of his many other humorous roles). But beside that, his performance still fell flat. His character dealt with rich issues, yet none of them were explored in detail. Instead, the film skated over each one, barely giving it enough time to take a breath before  disappearing entirely.

Real life is not very exciting most of the time. The beauty of film is that it cuts out the boring parts and makes the exciting parts more exhilarating. “Foxcatcher” didn’t do this. Maybe we got a truer story, but it was a story that sacrificed any semblance of entertainment or artistic value.

2/5

Matt Whitney is a senior film production major. This review reflects the view of the writer only.

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