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"Foxcatcher" Earns Praise from Writers

Bennett Miller's triumphant third directorial effort, "Foxcatcher," contains one of the best acting ensembles I've seen all year. Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo are perfectly cast in this fact-based drama about the chilling relationship between two Olympic wrestlers, brothers Mark and Dave Schultz, and their new sponsor, millionaire John du Pont. Even the smaller supporting roles portrayed by Vanessa Redgrave, Sienna Miller and Lee Perkins add to the psychology of this drama. I think this is one of the best movies of the year. Matt Zoller Seitz has reviewed the film on our site and I thought I'd provide you with an overview of the coverage the film has received at since its debut at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Best Director prize for Miller. It also just picked up the Best Acting Ensemble at the Hollywood Film Awards. Click on each of authors and you will be directed to the full article...


“There are many instances in which du Pont’s manic need to be idolized and obeyed has clear homoerotic implications, but I like that Miller holds back from pursuing this thread in any obvious way. When the millionaire, who fancies himself both a champion wrestler and inspirational coach, stages an evening of celebration with his team, there is a moment when he exuberantly tackles two of the men and rolls them to the floor. The wrestling moves are standard, the situation not unusual in the daily course of their interaction, and yet the vague feeling is created that something in the room has crossed a line.”


“There’s a deep, remarkably consistent undercurrent of sadness that courses through ‘Foxcatcher.’ Even when John, Mark and Dave find success, it’s often tinged with something dark under the surface. John’s mother doesn’t approve of the lowly sport of wrestling. Mark isn’t emotionally stable like his brother. And all the medals and wrestling match wins in the world aren’t going to fix the problems at the core of these two men. And so ‘Foxcatcher’ becomes a story about the futility of diversion. You can’t be a gold medal winner forever. You can’t win every match. You can’t buy everything you want in life, and the things and people you do buy won’t fix the fact that mommy had to pay someone to be your friend in childhood. ‘Foxcatcher’ is a stunningly complex piece of screenwriting, the kind of film that looks relatively simple but hides deeper meaning and character study than you first expect. It’s an even slower burn than ‘Capote’ or ‘Moneyball,’ and it takes time for the melancholy and unease to work their way under your skin.”


Tafoya: “‘Foxcatcher’ is one of the best depictions of broken expectations I’ve ever seen. My favorite writer, David Cairns, once hypothesized that the reason America is so full of violent outbursts is because we’re sold the ‘American Dream’ from a very young age. When we fail to achieve it, we feel cheated, like we failed, and that’s bound to make one upset, depressed, angry or all of the above. I don’t know that I’ve seen failure handled with such incredible intelligence and grace by another filmmaker. Steve Carrell’s vulture-like John E. Du Pont never amounted to the right things to himself. He wanted to be an athlete and a leader, and when he couldn’t be either, he bought those achievements for himself. Placed in opposition to Du Pont is Dave Schultz, who was both of those things naturally, but gave them up whenever he thought they’d interfere with his family life. If I’ve seen a better performance this year than Mark Ruffalo’s quiet transformation into the lanky, soft-spoken Schultz, I can’t think of what it might be. It’s appallingly great work in a film full of brilliant performances.”

Cheshire: “I consider [‘Foxcatcher’] the best American dramatic film I’ve seen so far this year. […] I think ‘Foxcatcher’ could deservedly win Best Picture. I think Channing Tatum deserves a nomination, but it looks like you and I will be voting against each other; I think Ruffalo is fantastic, but I’d vote for (and bet on) Steve Carrell.”


How long did it take for you to figure out the proper tone with which to tell the story? You mention that it could have been done as a comedy, save for the ending, and in fact, there are some very funny scenes in it but it is of a very discomfiting type of humor. The film I kept thinking of while watching it was “The King of Comedy,” another movie that is very funny but which is also so bleak and wounding in parts that you don't know whether to laugh or not while watching it.

I love that reference to ‘The King of Comedy.’ That is another example of a film with a comic actor, Jerry Lewis, doing something totally dramatic—not without humor but it was totally dramatic. The tone comes from the style of filmmaking, which is more concerned with observing a story instead of telling a story. It is a style that seeks to sensitize you to what is happening beneath the surface because so much goes unexpressed. The style tends to calm and smooth the waters so that you can see deeper. It is a turbulent story but the observing of it is ultra-focused. As far as tone in regards to being funny or serious or whatever else, it seemed to be an appropriate and natural manifestation of this extraordinarily awkward and ultimate tragic relationship.


Here is my own video journal from Cannes where I hail “Foxcatcher” as “an intriguing portrait of how one can misuse the privileges wealth affords him.”

Chaz Ebert

Chaz is the CEO of several Ebert enterprises, including the President of The Ebert Company Ltd, and of Ebert Digital LLC, Publisher of, President of Ebert Productions and Chairman of the Board of The Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, and Co-Founder and Producer of Ebertfest, the film festival now in its 24th year.

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