Based on the 1996 murder of Olympic gold medalist wrestler Dave Schultz, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher has three of the most powerful male performances of 2014. The film’s main character is Mark Schulz (Channing Tatum), also an Olympic wrestler. Mark feels like a loser, living a miserable life in his miserable apartment, eating packaged noodles and in the shadow of older brother Dave. Coach Dave (Mark Ruffalo) is successful, happy and settled with a wife and young children. By contrast, Mark seems to be going through life walking like a zombie. When John Du Pont – an heir to the du Pont family fortune – offers Mark a chance to get away from his depressing life, he jumps at it. Du Pont (Steve Carell) wants Mark to come and train at the family’s estate, Foxcatcher Farm, as part of Du Pont’s Foxcatcher Team. Du Pont’s aim is to win Olympic gold for the U.S. Du Pont also offers Dave to be a coach for the team, and he looks hurt by the older brother’s refusal. John Du Pont buys guns and army tanks as if they are mere toys. The relationship between Mark and John is unhealthy, with nights of drinking, partying and cocaine consumption. The reason why Du Pont signed Mark, was to get Dave to come to the farm as a coach. That revelation and the arrival of Dave has a devastating effect on Mark. Channing Tatum’s performance is impressive in the juxtaposition of physical and emotional traumas. There is an economy of words in Foxcatcher, and that suits an actor like Ruffalo very well. With a few glances, a nod, a pat on the back or an encouraging smile, Ruffalo is perfect as the loving, caring big brother. Known for his comedic turns, Steve Carell is unrecognizable under what looks like tons of make up. But his acting here is more than that. Look inside Carell eyes and you see an obsessive, distraught and sick man. Scary. And there is also a (too) short performance by Vanessa Redgrave, as Du Pont’s mother. No matter how small the part, Redgrave always makes it compelling. Foxcatcher is an uncompromising look at sports and the American way of life. We have Bennett Miller to thank for that.
And the Oscar went to… Steve Carell’s first attempt at a dramatic film was rewarded by his first Oscar nomination for Actor in a leading role. Foxcatcher‘s four other nominations were: Mark Ruffalo for Actor in a supporting role, director Bennett Miller, E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman in the Original screenplay category. Both Miller and Futterman were previously nominated in 2005 for Capote. The last nomination is Makeup and hairstyling for making Carell unrecognizable. But it lost in all the categories.