“I hate Bennett Miller.” “Everything I’ve ever said positive about the movie I take back. I hate it. i hate it. i hate it. i hate it. i hate it. i hate it. i hate it.”
No, those aren’t the sentiments of a reviewer underwhelmed by Miller’s bafflingly pointless new film. They’re sentiments tweeted last month by one of the men it’s about, Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz.
“You crossed the line Miller,” he continued. “You’re career is over.” and “You think I can’t take you down coz ur a director. Watch me Bennett.”
Perhaps the most significant was the tweet which sought to direct readers to the memoir Schultz published in November chronicling the events dramatized in Miller’s film: “For the true story (not the one the movie is based on…actually I don’t know what story the movie is based on) read my book.”
Channing Tatum plays the decorated athlete-now 54-as an inarticulate lug seething with undefined bitterness and given to wild swings of mood. Anyone who reads the tweets and sees the film is likely to feel the actor captured something of Schultz’s essence. Did I mention Schultz raved about Foxcatcher after its Cannes premiere? And that he’s an associate producer?
I can’t account with certainty for his change of heart. Members of the Hollywood press, however, have postulated that after multiple viewings Schultz suddenly realized screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman hinted at a sexual undercurrent to the strange relationship between the wrestler and his sponsor, multimillionaire ornithologist, cokehead and diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic John du Pont. And so Schultz freaked.
Perhaps you’re picking up on the fact that this is a movie about disturbed dudes. That much is true. On the other hand, almost everything else in Miller’s latest is not. Events depicted in the film are either completely fictionalized to serve the director’s theme (more on that momentarily) or chronologically rearranged or compressed. The bottom line: Any given thing you see in the picture probably never happened.
Steve Carell delivers a super creepy performance as du Pont with the assistance of a prosthetic beak so impressive it almost merits a costarring credit. The idea is he builds a training facility in the ’80s, ostensibly as an act of patriotism, but in reality as a means of dealing with monumental loneliness, insecurity and mommy issues. First he invites Mark to live there and, later, his older brother Dave, also a gold medalist (Mark Ruffalo portrays him as the sole voice of reason in an increasingly crowded madhouse).
The movie is 135 minutes long and takes its time saying absolutely nothing of consequence about America, entitlement, the power of privilege, the haves and have nots or what have you. It offers little more than the portrait of a psychologically unstable hobbyist behaving in psychologically unstable ways-a spoiled brat with a gun collection.
This can prove mildly interesting at times due to the considerable talents of the cast but Miller never quite gets around to having a point. Watching Foxcatcher meander dourly into narrative dead ends and leave one story line after another dangling, it’s difficult to believe the same director gave us Moneyball and Capote.
Something terrible occurs at the end of the film. That tragedy isn’t anything the movie builds toward though. The picture isn’t in any sense about it and certainly makes no effort to explain it. The crime comes out of nowhere, the random act of a deranged man. The filmmaker merely uses it as a punctuation mark, a futile grasp at gravitas calculated to move Foxcatcher up in weight class.