[Screen It]


(2014) (Steve Carell, Channing Tatum) (R)

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Drama: A self-absorbed millionaire attempts to fulfill his need for self-worth by helping an Olympic gold medal wrestler win again.
Mark Schultz (CHANNING TATUM) and his brother, David (MARK RUFFALO), are wrestlers who both won Gold medals in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. While David is married to Nancy (SIENNA MILLER), has two kids, and serves as Mark's coach, his brother has focused solely on wrestling and is looking forward to the upcoming world championships and Seoul Olympics in the next year.

Much to his surprise, Mark gets an unlikely call from John du Pont (STEVE CARELL) of the famous and uber-wealthy du Pont family. He's always thought of himself as a wrestler, but his elderly, horse-loving mother, Jean du Pont (VANESSA REDGRAVE), always viewed that as a lowly sport and thus discouraged his participation.

Undeterred by that and wanting to earn his mother's approval and bring back stature to America, John desires to be a wrestling coach and wants the large gymnasium on his grounds to serve as the main training center for U.S. wrestling Olympians. He easily gets Mark to join him, but can't convince David due to the latter being reluctant to uproot his family and move to Pennsylvania.

John ends up becoming something of the father figure Mark never had, but as their relationship continues to evolve and John's behavior becomes increasingly unpredictable, it's unclear what will ultimately happen with both men's goals.

OUR TAKE: 5.5 out of 10
Just recently, for the first time in my life, I went deep sea fishing. As in head out for three days, two to two and a half hours each time into the open water, drops lines, and putt along while trolling. Once I figured out I wasn't going to get seasick, I came to this realization about this particular activity: It might be the most boring thing you'll ever do in your life, at least when nothing was striking. Yet, despite 30 hours of fishing interrupted by maybe an hour's worth of action, for some reason I kinda, sorta want to do it again.

At this point, you may wonder what deep sea fishing has to do with the latest film from director Bennett Miller, the man who helmed "Capote" and "Moneyball." Is his latest film a remake of "A Perfect Storm" or "The Old Man and the Sea?" Was our press screening somehow, inexplicable, held out in the middle of the ocean? Did your trusty reviewer get too much sun and ingest too many diesel fumes that have caused some sort of weird hallucination?

No, dear reader, it's because my experience with watching "Foxcatcher" -- the true life crime tale about John du Pont (yes, that du Pont family) getting involved with two gold medal winners from the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles -- was somewhat similar to my fishing excursion. It's slow -- sometimes excruciatingly -- and it takes a long time for the obvious to occur. Yet, against my better judgment, I'm surprised to say I kinda, sorta wouldn't mind seeing it again.

Considering there wouldn't be any surprises the second time around (or the first time for those who remember the real story from 1996 and the subsequent trial a year later), it's possible I'd quickly have a "Oh no, I forgot how boring this was" response and second guess my viewing decision. Of course, only time (130 or so minutes) and the padding of a viewing chair would tell, but I imagine I won't be alone in my assessment of viewing boredom (with a likely slight majority of critics disagreeing, but a majority of average moviegoers agreeing) while taking in this flick.

It's all about du Pont (Steve Carell, decked out with prosthetics and a slight look down the enlarged nose expression of superiority and creepiness) who so wants to impress his horse-loving mama (Vanessa Redgrave, briefly seen in a few scenes) and prove his patriotism by building a wrestling chaining facility that bears the film's name. Having built that, he goes after some of the top talent from the previous Olympics, that being the brotherly duo of Mark (Channing Tatum) and David Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), and wants them not only to train at his facility, but also bring home more gold and other related awards.

The young Schultz is all in, what with coming off like not the brightest bulb around and apparently not having any other sort of outside life. His older sibling, however, is married with kids and isn't as gung-ho to uproot his family and train with this generous but decidedly odd man. Money seems to talk, however, and the brothers are reunited and we then just wait for the inevitable hammer to drop. And it seemingly takes forever for all of that to play out. And the pic's various themes, be that the fallout of growing up rich and never receiving a parent's acceptance, warped patriotism or what have you, are perhaps a bit too spot on.

Yet the performances are solid to strong, with Carell making one forget about his many comedic alter-ego characters over the years, Tatum toning down his sex appeal in favor of brooding simplicity (a late comment about him being an ungrateful ape sort of seems to fit), and Ruffalo once again grounding his character and thus the film in a believable realism.

That said, I was expecting so much more from Miller's latest, what with the quality of his previous flicks, especially Brad Pitt's "Moneyball." Perhaps it was the need to stick closely to the truth (although I can't say for any certainty if that's the case) or the script delivered by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman. Whatever the case and regardless of whether the slow pace and overlong running time were intentional for some thematic aspect or related affect on the viewer, the film would have worked so much better -- and thus been easier to sit through without lots of cheek to cheek shifting -- had it clocked in somewhere in the 100 minute range. Or if something else happened during the otherwise vastly padded running time.

I'm sure it will get all sorts of end of the year awards love -- and Carell certainly deserves his share for playing so far against type and nailing the part -- but so much of it feels like Oscar bait rather than having accolades flow organically from the offering. Likely to be loved by critics while making many an average moviegoer wish they were deep sea fishing -- even if nothing's biting -- "Foxcatcher" does have a strange mesmerizing after-effect, but not enough to earn more than a 5.5 out of 10 rating.

Reviewed October 14, 2014 / Posted November 21, 2014

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