Foxcatcher, the latest effort from Bennett Miller, has been on a long journey. Miller started production in 2007, but obstacles such as Channing Tatum’s disinterest at the time meant that filming didn’t begin until 2012. It then fled the Oscar season pile up of 2013, much to my dismay, and premiered at Cannes in 2014 where Miller won the prize for Best Director. 8 months later, it was released in UK cinemas. Did it live up to my building anticipatory expectations? Well, not really.
This is a slow film through and through. You can tell from the offset that you’re in for a crawl, when the wrestling warm up between Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo (who play the most unconvincing brothers I’ve seen in a while) stretches on for longer than you could ever expect. These lengthy shots of things that don’t really move forward the character or plot development are frequent, especially in the first half hour, which only seems longer due to it’s lacking score. The film, at times, seems empty. This isn’t a criticism of Miller’s direction, which I believe was the overwhelming strong point that Foxcatcher offered, brilliant, beautiful and haunting. It’s just that such quality won’t justify these seemingly pointless scenes to casual film fans who desire plot or action – they’re going to get very bored, very quickly.
However, pair that stunning direction with the more eventful scenes at you strike pure gold. Foxcatcher is distressing to watch, even scary at times. Even things that shouldn’t be frightening, such as Steve Carrell running amongst a bunch of horses, became eerie and creepy. There’s an ever present sense of unease and discomfort through the film, which again won’t be for everyone, but I personally thought it helped counter some of the dragging parts.
What has been the biggest talking point for this film is the performances of Steve Carrell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. All have been hyped beyond belief and mentioned in relation to the Oscar race. Controversially, I’m not sure they were all that – besides Tatum. This could just be my out of nowhere love for him that I’ve somehow developed, but he was genuinely excellent. He broke my heart a thousand times over. Ruffalo, who seems to be the most likely candidate for an Oscar nomination, was less impressive – he says buddy a lot while patting his brother. Spoiler aside, that’s almost it. Carrell, unsurprisingly, commanded most of the buzz. A comic actor turned dramatic! A physical transformation! People will never not eat that shit straight up. The physical transformation was impressive, but that wasn’t really Carrell – awards for whoever made that monster of a nose, please. He was impressive when he at his most terrifying, but the sort of pissed off sociopathic thing he pulled the rest of the time was dreary. Also, I couldn’t really look past his iconic role of Michael Scott. If you’ve seen The Office, you might have a hard time here because so many lines sound like something Michael would come out with (‘My friends call me Golden Eagle, or Eagle’).
When Foxcatcher was at its best, it was a 10/10 masterpiece. Sadly, these peaks came about 3 times during the 138 minute running time. The rest trailed behind and it felt like wading through mud a lot of the time – if I hadn’t been so excited for this film and was watching it at home rather than the cinema, there were have been a few instances where I could have switched the entire thing off. This is not to say I don’t recommend it though – all in all, it is a good film – but maybe only for those who know they have the strength to power through and can excuse the pace.
Ashley is a passive aggressive 16 year old from Norwich. She is a feminist, a vegetarian, and a huge fan of Taylor Swift who wears both short skirts AND t-shirts. She loves a lot of things, mostly Breaking Bad and history. Most likely to be found crying because somebody won on a gameshow. Her favourite films are Beasts of the Southern Wild, Lost in Translation, Pulp Fiction and The Royal Tenenbaums. She blogs at pacificdaylighttime and tweets at @heartswellss.