Foxcatcher (Miller, 2014)

Foxcatcher is very good. It’s really uncomfortable, and gorgeously shot and acted. I’m quite a fan of Bennett Miller’s work, and this is right up there with his other two. It’s a shame Channing Tatum wasn’t nominated for anything. He’s great here – it’s the best I’ve seen him.

I love the color scheme of the film, which you can see in any of the stills below. This dim, moody contrast, with hints of yellow and blue everywhere. There are a lot of huge wides that come in late in scenes – rather than acting as establishing, they’re really there to punctuate the sense of emptiness that lingers everywhere.

But first things first. Mark Ruffalo’s arms. His David Schultz walks around with those elbows always slight bent:

Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 9.58.06 AM Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 9.56.28 AM

It’s a great example of physical acting (Tatum’s Mark Schultz has it too – an odd gait that looks like his jeans are perpetually too tight, and an upper body that doesn’t move freely at all unless wrestling) and never feels awkward. There’s a limberness to David, certainly an apelike quality. That physicality suits him as he’s sort of the “everyman” here – always ready to diffuse and/or for action.

Here’s one of many gorgeous wides. There are plenty of pretty exteriors, but I love the shots in the ring:

Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 9.58.50 AM

The hard lit floor opposite an audience just barely there reminds me of plenty of old boxing films (like THIS ONE).

I love Miller’s brand of shot-reverse. Here’s an early scene with Mark opposite Steve Carell’s incredibly awkward, sometimes hilarious, often scary, John du Pont:

Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 9.59.16 AM Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 9.59.35 AM

Both men are center frame with a little too much headroom. They’re pretty crowded in with stuff on the desk and in the room. The space feels really flat. In short, the conversation feels really affected visually and verbally. The discomfort comes through in both ways.

One of the best scenes of the film is short and towards the turning point. I’m missing a shot below, but it starts with this (very yellow) painting from the du Pont estate:

Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 9.57.33 AM

After a wide, we get this scene. Like so many in Miller’s film, there’s no music here, and the soundtrack is just dominated with sounds of breathing, moving…wrestling. These long pieces of intense but quiet diegetic sound really build the intensity.

Here we get a cut to John, hardly visible in the darkness-

Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 10.00.44 AM

-and then the scene ends on the really tight profile CU on Mark, being pinned by John, as what looks like silent tears roll down his face:

Screen shot 2015-05-29 at 10.01.07 AM

The scene has the feeling of brutality – sexual violence maybe. There’s definitely a level of sexuality to Mark and John’s relationship and this one is as close as we get to something graphically shown. It’s smart to end in that CU on Mark – no reveal of their bodies after the initial wide leaves something to the imagination.

Foxcatcher is a really quiet film on the whole. I like that. Miller just lets silence be silent and it’s effective. Here’s a nice example of that. That long pause from John is creepy and makes the slap – which is the loudest thing in the scene – really startling:





About dcpfilm

Shooting, teaching, writing and watching the Phillies.
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4 Responses to Foxcatcher (Miller, 2014)

  1. John L. Ghertner says:

    I agree here. Everything about this film is forboding of something to come. The gait of the two wrestlers, that of overworked bodies, the plastic facial expression of du Pont, the monotonous tone of color, sound, and voice inflection is actually quite frightening.

    I kind of wish the film ended one scene sooner though to maintain the air of forboding after the film ends. I don’t like films to end just to bring in the credits.

  2. John L. Ghertner says:

    I failed to mention about that wrestling scene which is the most perfect in the film. This Edward Hopper like still captures the sense of actually being on that mat; any former wrestler will tell you the same.

  3. Pingback: Spotlight (McCarthy, 2015) | dcpfilm

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