Monday, March 30, 2015

We're going to do great things, Mark.

I have never been dumped.

Yeah, surprising, right? Well, if you can manage to complete high school and college without being in too many serious relationships (I can count them on one hand, maybe even one that's missing a finger...or three), that opening statement loses a little bit of its luster. I only mention that little tidbit, because I'm not sure how I would have ever handled flat-out romantic rejection. Likely I would have opted for our family cat's final moments, crawling into the empty tub and calling it a life. Or, and I'm just kind of freewheeling here...

...I could have managed a wrestling team, in the shortest shorts possible, and simply ruined everything.

I knew almost nothing about Foxcatcher heading in. Something about wrestling? Got it. Great performances all around - got that, too. Otherwise, though, I knew zero of the sordid details surrounding John du Pont and Schultz brothers.

While the specific events that would play out in the next two-plus hours would be shocking enough, so to would be the structure of this film. Foxcatcher, despite its desolate, lab-like presentation, is a love story. And a rather heart-breaking one at that.

Set between the '84 and '88 Olympic Games, director Bennett Miller's film follows Mark Schultz, a gold-medal winning wrestler, as he lumbers his way through post-Olympic glory.

We open with Mark (Channing Tatum) delivering a cookie-cutter follow your dreams speech to a room full of politely uninterested elementary-school students. Mark's clearly struggling, and to make it worse, he's only been given this 'opportunity' because his older brother Dan (an extra-tender Mark Ruffalo), also a gold-medal winner, couldn't make it. But, hey - twenty bucks is twenty-bucks, right?

Mark and Dan's relationship is like any pair of brothers, complicated only when it needs to be. Mark appears to be struggling with his own place in the world, and Dan's heavy shadow doesn't make it any easier. Dan's a good guy, and would do anything for his brother, but with a wife and kids he hasn't the time for Mark like he probably used to. If only there was someone to take care of Mark...

Enter the creepy, but (initially?) well-intentioned John du Pont (a haunting my dreams forever Steve Carell), the impossibly awkward heir to the du Pont family fortune. du Pont resides at a palatial estate, Foxcatcher Farms, where he spends his days admiring equestrian trophies and buying military surplus. You know, the same we all spend a lazy Sunday.

du Pont, not really knowing anything about wrestling, contacts Mark and convinces him to move to his estate. Foxcatcher is going to be the new home of USA Wrestling, and it appears du Pont has taken a shine to Mark, completely adrift at this point in his life. A few more lumbering/sweaty guys show up, and it appears that everything is going to be okay. Phew. I thought this was going to be one of those depressing stories, where the lives of everyone involved are irrevocably destroyed, leaving only fragments of the happy people they once were. That's refreshing. Coke, anyone?

Speaking of not-too-subtle examples of man's downfall, here are the Yays and Boos. They're favorite wrestling movie is still Nacho Libre, with Nymphomaniac Vol. I [review] a close second.

Is it wrong that I really want the shirt? And the beard?

  • Tatum. I realize that some might argue that Magic Mike playing a slow-on-the-uptake lunk may not be the hugest stretch, but I loved Tatum's performance here. From the look on his face, to his ridiculous gait, Tatum delivered something special here.
  • As did Mark Ruffalo, even though it's not much of a surprise at this point. As bleak and borderline upsetting as this entire film is, Ruffalo's Dan allows us to breathe every now and then. Like Mark, Dan's a big f--ker, too, but Ruffalo plays the nurturing brother with such ease, he's completely disarming.
  • Carell is also mesmerizing, even if at times I thought I was looking at a live-action Gru. His take on du Pont is terrifying, and 900% outside of anything Carell has done prior. I applaud anyone who read the script and thought, We should totally get Michael from The Office for this! Seriously. Well done. 
  • As for the film itself, umm....there were two moments worthy of a cheer:
    • Hotel room freakout (which deeply disturbed Ms. Two Dollar Cinema).
    • Weight loss insanity. I'm sure I could gain 12 pounds in 90 minutes, but this was way more impressive.
  • And finally, the way a simple drama can unfold like a f--king horror movie. Miller creates (and maintains) such an unsettling visual style, even if nothing's really happening, you may find yourself bracing to look away. While that may not sound like the best way two spend an evening, it's enthralling nonetheless.
  • The only thing worse than removing your mom's horse trophies, is to then replace them with wrestling medals. Um, someone else's wrestling medals.
  • Hey, this isn't awkward or anything, but you could stop calling me Mr. du Pont? Way too formal. Please, call me Eagle. Or Golden Eagle. Cool?
  • I've told you before that I'm slow, right? Well, I is. Er, am. Anyway, as I was struggling to stay awake during this one (wifey tapped out minutes in), there was this awkward scene that I couldn't wrap my mind around. In my notes, I wrote Sex? or wrestling? The next day, I watched it over, and underlined one of those words, still somewhat unsure of myself. Later that night, my wife wanted to watch the end of the movie (I filled her in on the hour she missed). I told her about the aforementioned scene. She gave me the show it to me so I can tell you, dummy look...and I did. Her answer? Wait. Which one did you underline, again?
  • Speaking of weird scenes, du Pont's show for Mommy may have been near the top of the list. It's so sad, so entirely pathetic, it almost made du Pont sympathetic for a minute. Almost.
  • But ultimately, f--k du Pont, f--k everything about that guy. Whatever he was thinking that day is beyond me, but it's just unfathomable that he would take out his depression/rage/fear the way that he did. 
  • And finally, somewhat related to that last bullet, let me jeer artistic liberties. Many of the more compelling bits of this movie didn't exactly play out as they were portrayed. I realize that's the price you pay when you tell years of someone's life in two hours, but learning the truth lessened the effect the movie ultimately had. I'm not even one for research, as I like to let the film be the film...but I had too many questions when Foxcatcher ended.

I hope you enjoyed this latest offering of Two Dollar Cinema. I'm glad you and I have this relationship where we can be so open and honest about film. It means the world to-

What's that? You've found A newer one, with a perspective much more similar to yours?

No, no. It's fine. In fact, I'm fine. Really. I am.

You mind if I use your bathroom for a minute?


  1. The tag you filed this under made me laugh.

    I wish I knew more about why du Pont did this, but God, that guy offered nothing. It's insane.

    I really enjoyed this, I knew ahead of time what happened to Dave, but I didn't know the circumstances around it, or when it actually happened, so it made the tension in the film even harder to death with.

    You're right on the show for du Pont's mother being one of the most pathetic things I've ever seen. I had 2nd hand embarrassment watching that.

    1. That's great! I was hoping someone would notice that.

      du Pont is a strange guy to say the least. It doesn't surprise me in the least that he never offered up anything.

      I was totally nervous the whole time, but I think the film created a bit of a disservice by muddying the timeline of what happened to Dave. It was very dramatic, sure. But the truth seems even weirder.

      Secondhand embarrassment is the perfect way to put it. I felt really, really bad for him.

  2. I actually had no trouble assessing that the....nightly encounter was wrestling but I can see why one would think it was sex. Seems real Mark thought so too as he had twitter meltdown about it. You are so right about the movie being a lot like horror - Carell was so horribly unsettling and the whole atmosphere was creepy

    1. Well, it only made sense that it was wrestling, but the look on Mark's face had this weird component of disappointment/detachment. I get how that works in the 'training' version of events, but the next scene led to believe that their relationship had taken a turn.

      I also read what the real guy said, and that also left me confused. He went on at length about how much he loved the film upon repeated viewings, yet he kind of freaked out about the sexual implications. Seemed somewhat contradictory to know?

      In twenty years yet another Halloween remake will have the Michael Myers character wearing a white, flattened-out mask of du Pont, I'm almost sure of it. Yikes.

  3. Tatum. Like, SO MUCH TATUM! My God was he incredible here. And Ruffalo. He was incredible.

    That's all I got.

  4. The performances in this are terrific, aren't they?

    1. Truly impressive. While Ruffalo is probably gifted enough to do anything, I really commend not only the actors, but the people that believed in Tatum and Carell. Great stuff all around, especially how unexpectedly good it turned out to be.

  5. The end of this review just killed me.

    1. I'm surprised you didn't die on the way, as this review is entirely too long, you know? Damn, m. brown. Damn.