A tiny snippet of St. Stephen by the Grateful Dead plays on the radio in the only enjoyable five seconds of Foxcatcher; the true story of John du Pont (Steve Carell), a billionaire wrestling enthusiast who takes Olympic champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) under his wing.
This Oscar-baiting drama is a deeply unappealing film about some unappealing men playing an unappealing sport; two big guys roll around for a bit and it’s impossible to tell who’s winning. But it’s certainly not the audience, who have to sit through more than two hours of this crap.
Both leads are unpleasant characters whose sole motivation is violence. Carell’s prosthetics mask a caricatured performance and Tatum is a lumbering humanoid with arms like tree trunks, a face like a fist and unspeakable double-denim. They’re both very physical performances, but only Mark Ruffalo plays a proper character as Mark’s kind brother David.
The movie seeks to blame du Pont’s increasingly volatile behaviour on his repressed homosexuality, mommy issues and general weirdness; any perceived deviation the film can find. With his bird obsession and “mother” fixation, he’s wrestling’s answer to Norman Bates. Norman Weights.
Director Bennett Miller uses indulgently slow shots and distracting sound design that dips in and out at apparently random intervals. The washed-out cinematography, tedious score and empty characterisation make watching Foxcatcher a truly hollow experience; as dull and alienating as watching wrestling.
With its sensational true story, prosthetic central performance and heavy-handed politics, this is classic awards fodder. But like du Pont himself, the film’s sense of entitlement is swollen by its misplaced self-worth; Foxcatcher is a dispassionate and depressing slog of a film.