The upcoming awards season will probably credit the stars of Foxcatcher (Channing Tatum and Steve Carell) for stepping outside of their comfort zones. Fair enough. The performances in this picture are a far cry from what many cinemagoers will have expected from these two funny-men. Yes, much of this credit will be deserved; the acting is very good, with Tatum and Carell giving respectively introverted and sinister performances as Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz and 'ornithologist, philatelist, philanthropist' John Eleuthere du Pont. The make-up and costumes are also very good, and the film does well to build a creepy aura of 'Abercrombie & Fitch' styled homoeroticism between the loping, muscular Tatum and the grotesque Carell. For most of the film, the greys and greens of the Mid-Atlantic are broken only by the waspish yellow & blue of the Foxcatcher logo. It's all very collegiate. It's set on a stud farm.
But I can't escape a niggling problem with Foxcatcher. In spite of this film's many positives, I couldn't shake the sense that I was watching two very well-known names doing their best to drop the comedy from their resumes. The performances are a bit too earnest and it makes for uncomfortable viewing at times. Whilst Foxcatcher does surprisingly well to cultivate an air of quiet, creeping horror, I couldn't help thinking that Tatum and Carell were a bit of a distraction, detracting from the film's emotional impact. In fact, so much of this picture is dedicated to the two stars showing off their acting chops, that in spite of the fact that we are a presented with a 'true story', the characters themselves seem somehow unbelievable.
There's no denying that I was shocked by the horrific outcome of the third act: the sadly predicable end to a weird confluence of madness and money. But in the back of my mind, I knew that I could be watching 22 Jump Street later in the week, that this was Brick Tamland with a rubber nose. Perhaps unjustifiably, I just can't shake the image of Carell in 5 years' time, reviewing his performance in a particularly sincere episode of Inside the Actors Studio.
It takes Mark Ruffalo, in a supporting role, to deliver something more engaging. Through his quiet portrayal of Dave Schultz, the audience can forget the prosthetics, the hair plugs, and the (probably) award-winning lead performances, for just long enough to invest real emotion into what these two brothers endured.