Viennale 2014 – Day 10: Foxcatcher

USA 2014
Written by E. Max Frye & Dan Futterman
Directed by Bennett Miller

“Foxcatcher” was praised by many as a stunning real-life drama, a dark tale about ambition and the american way of life, and/or a fascinating character study in the vein of “Citizen Kane” or “There Will Be Blood”; for me, however, it was mostly a study in boredom. I never really found my way into the movie. I couldn’t relate to any of the characters, and I didn’t get what drives anyone in the movie to do whatever they’re doing – which is especially true, but not exclusive to, John du Ponts actions at the end.

I didn’t know the real-life story behind the movie in advance (hell, I didn’t even know that I would see “Foxcatcher”, since it was the surprise movie, which I assumed and hoped would be “Fury”), and in hindsight, I can’t decide if that helped or hurt my “enjoyment” of the movie. Because even not knowing what’s going to happen, I found “Foxcatcher” to be incredibly dull; on the other hand, knowing beforehand where this is leading might have prompted me to pay more attention, and to look for telltale signs of the tragedy that awaits at the end. Because as it stands, this scene came completely out of the blue for me, and even now I can’t even care to guess what drove du Pont to do what he did there. If the movie was supposed to build up to it, to make it seem like the natural, maybe even unavoidable outcome of this story, then it failed – as least with me. But it’s not just the ending, I had a hard time getting the motivation of the characters for certain actions and developments in general. For example, I didn’t really get what the reason was for the big fallout between du Pont and Mark Schultz.

It doesn’t help that wrestling (the real sport, not the WWE-showfights; which can be fun and exciting to watch) is not a sport that lends itself to a thrilling cinematic representation. Watching two guys hugging and feeling each other up while rolling around on a mattress does not make for exciting action (at least outside of gay porn). It was also hard for me to overlook Steve Carells obvious fake nose. Granted, his appearance and his portrayal are based on a real person that I hadn’t even heard of prior to watching the movie, so it’s possible that from an authentical point of view, they did everything right. But since I know how Steve Carell looks in real life, I found the fake nose to be extremely distracting, and I gotta say I’m a little baffled about that “Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling” Academy Award nomination (though not nearly half as baffled as I would have been if “Foxcatcher” would have gotten a “Best Picture”-nomination).

By far my biggest problem with it, however, is that I was bored to tears. Neither the characters nor the story managed to grip, excite or even interest me. Thus, my reluctance grew with every passing minute, and ultimately, the movie felt a lot longer to me than its running time of just slightly over two hours (once again proving that Einstein was right: Time is relative). Pretty much the only aspect where I can agree with all the praise “Foxcatcher” received is the acting. Carell is very good, bringing a darkness and a sincerity to his performance that I don’t remember ever even glimpsing from him before. Channing Tatum is decent enough (even though the more often I see him, the more I realize that I prefer him in funny roles), but apart from Carell the standout here is Mark Ruffalo, who continues his streak of marvelous work in supporting roles. Overall, it’s – by far – not the worst movie that I’ve seen at this years Viennale, but having seen “Fury” by now (expect a review for it around the middle of february), I definitely would have preferred it if my guess for this years surprise movie would have been correct – and not just for the gratification of being right.


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