People have been talking about ‘Foxcatcher’ for so long now that it would not be surprising if you thought it came out years ago. Actually, the movie was originally slated for release more than a year ago and in production far before that. I try not to pay attention to the supposed production woes of films, but it would be safe to worry about the quality of such a long gestating film. Well, no need to worry. It turns out that this is one of the years best.
The biggest reason for the films quality has to be the performances. The characters in this film are very distinct and each actor brings great depth to every nuance. Steve Carrell is absolutely certain to get an Academy Award nomination for his creepy performance as Coach DuPont. Yet, if he wasn’t as good as he is then Channing Tatum would also have a chance at an Oscar, as well. He is fantastic in the role of Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz.
The true story here is not that complex. Mark is an Olympic wrestler who is training to compete again with brother Dave (an equally award worthy Mark Ruffalo). Then he gets a call inviting him to meet John DuPont. It turns out that Mr. DuPont is interested in giving the American wrestling team the training center they deserve and he wants the Schultz brothers to run it. Mark is right on board, but Dave doesn’t want to uproot his family.
This gives Mark his first real chance to shine above his famous brother and creates an opening for Mr. DuPont to become a father figure like Mark never had. I won’t tell you much more of what happens, but the underlying tissue that connects the film is the power of mentors and the way we try to live up to their great examples. The biggest emphasis here is obviously put on the position of the coach and a lot is asked about what that really means. Do you even really need to know the sport you are coaching to be a mentor?
The other big theme is that of legacy. It becomes quite clear in this film that Coach DuPont is less interested in being a mentor than he is in having a documentary showing how great a man he is. How many rich sons screw up the world because they care more about being remembered than doing something good for others? How many mentors screw kids up because they are not interested in helping the kid, but interested in making a name for themselves? How many good coaches are forgotten because they don’t care about legacy?
All these things are explored here in vivid detail. Director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) takes his time and digs deep into these themes without ever being preachy. He allows the audience to feel these situations and understand their great weight on the characters. This is certainly one of the most relaxed and understated films of the year. However, it never feels boring or like it’s dragging. It’s deliberately paced and it works. It works so well that I hope you go out and see it before the Oscars. It will certainly be a contender.