Foxcatcher (2014)

by Jaime Grijalba.

There seems to be some kind of animosity towards a director like Bennett Miller, he has made few films but most of them, out of the blue, have managed to achieve praise, and more than anything, attention from the biggest award groups, most certainly the Oscars and the Golden Globes, among many others. ‘Capote’ (2005) is still his best film, maybe the best biopic ever made, and ‘Moneyball’ (2011) was a surprising film, quite complex and well made around a sport that I not only despise but I also have no understanding about. So, here comes another movie about a sport that I have no real interest in, wrestling, but again like in his 2011 effort, the sport isn’t as important as you may think in the beginning, and I think that here Miller manages to craft a style, come together with a collection of images and a cinematography that goes with those elements and has the result that he’s looking for: a gorgeous film filled with empty spaces, just like the ones the characters are trying to fill.

Kevin B. Lee recently tweeted that all the characters in ‘Foxcatcher’ (2014) were like turtles. I see this, I see what he says, but while he considers it one of his points to criticize the film for its lack of connection or whatever it is, I think that it’s the perfect figure to try to understand what the film is trying to do. The relation between the characters, the mentors, the masters, they seem to be always protecting themselves, and then protecting someone else, as if they hid from their own surroundings that seem to affect them more than they are willing to admit. John du Pont is in a mansion in the countryside that he hates because of his mother upbringing, the Schultz brothers are more than free, forced to live in the Foxcatcher farm because of the benefits that it has for their careers, but not for their lives, and ultimately it turns out to be the worst for the three of them, as when they aspire to come out of their shell, they become something abject, despicable and ultimately they end up being destroyed.

Trying to find some sort of narrative in the film is easy, but what it’s hard to see is the conflict, because there seems to be non-existant, and when it tends to appear, it doesn’t stay for too long, it is smothered under the shots of space with no people, the empty places seem to cover any insinuation, anything remotely related to the forces at play, at least until the final 10 minutes, when the entire context becomes something important in relation to the crime that is committed. The three characters come out of their shells and they all fail to the same things that they wanted to protect themselves from, they all finally realize that in the end it was better inside their turtle shells than peeking outside to see if there was something better, to see if the years in the shade weren’t just something that they thought it was OK to live through.

At the same time, while I think that it’s a complex film that was more visually created than with a focus in its narrative (though it follows a pattern of events that have a somewhat logical following), I also think that certain themes while interesting are a bit overplayed and a tad obvious when it comes to the final meaning and creation of the film. It all comes down to the issue of masculinity, of who has the power over who, and if that ends up in diminishing returns, there is an homosexual undertone in the performances of Carell and Tatum, specially when they start to bond, and later those elements are sprinkled (though not forced) around the issue of how the problem might come from jealousy and the brotherly relation between the Schultzs. A film that maybe needed something more, and that benefited from the fact that I didn’t know about the real fact behind it, and that would’ve made me anxious about the ending, something I didn’t feel when I watched it.



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