‘Foxcatcher’ wrestles for gold

Very much like the John du Pont portrayed on-screen, “Foxcatcher” is a dark, unhinged and disturbing experience that gives its stars the opportunity to deliver career-best performances.

“Foxcatcher” comes from critically acclaimed director Bennett Miller, who also took the reigns on “Capote” and “Moneyball” — both nominated for several Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture of the Year. Known for his extremely silent and ambient storytelling, Miller provides a film that heavily emanates Oscar buzz it rightfully deserves.

Miller’s latest biographical drama places Channing Tatum, Golden Globe winner Steve Carell and Academy Award nominee Mark Ruffalo in the story of Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum).

Schultz lives under the shadow of his more acclaimed brother, Dave Schultz (Ruffalo), until multi-millionaire John du Pont (Carell) gives him the opportunity to rise from obscurity and poverty. Du Pont invites Mark to live and train in Foxcatcher Farm: Here du Pont eventually “coaches” a world-class team of wrestlers in preparation for the 1988 Seoul Olympics — here is also where du Pont’s threatening and disturbing habits lead the Schultz brothers to self-destruction.

Although “Foxcatcher” is based on the tragic events that happened in du Pont’s estate, Miller takes a more analytical approach to the characters involved than the tragedy itself. Consequently, the movie proves to be an overall effective — but flawed — character study that allows the cast to showcase their true potential.

Tatum delivers a stellar performance that’s more than worthy of several award nominations: he makes Mark’s lumbering walk and jutted-out jaw his own, along with the character’s repressed anger and despair. The actor shows his fans and critics that he’s capable of reaching the emotional complexity and depth that’s required with his matching portrayal of Mark — a man who desperately wants to earn the respect he thinks he deserves.

Despite Ruffalo’s role being less significant than that of his co-stars, the actor manages to bring Dave’s compassionate and brotherly characteristics with impactful execution. It’s no secret Ruffalo can act, but the work he does with Dave’s ape-like walk and fierce expressions make the few moments he’s on screen compelling.

Among all the talent, Carell’s metamorphic performance as John E. du Pont — from the du Pont family — is the real trophy in “Foxcatcher.” The comedian is unrecognizable with the prosthetic nose, heavy makeup and perfect portrait of du Pont’s disturbing semblance. Completely consumed in character, Carell will be hardly recognized by fans — once he is, they’ll see him through completely polarizing lenses.

Fans of the Golden Globe winning comedy series “The Office” may actually notice certain similarities in the show’s awkwardly comical Michael Scott and Carell’s du Pont. Their more pronounced similarities are found in their awkward and socially challenged personas, but the two characters desperately strive for one thing: acceptance. Du Pont’s ridiculous endeavors to impress his mother in “Foxcatcher” are startlingly reminiscent of Scott’s attempts at improv.

Even though Carell’s performance is extremely transformative, his familiarity and skill with comedic timing help him bring the eccentric millionaire’s creepy charisma to life — and an Oscar nomination.

That being said: “Foxcatcher” can, at times, be boring. This is a result of Miller’s deliberately quiet and patient style of storytelling, which, instead, often seems like awkward and sluggish pacing. In the first act his silent techniques are remarkably efficient with scenes that capture Mark’s day-to-day routine and wonderfully choreographed spars with Dave, but the same techniques are applied to scenes that are better off without them. This very same style proved to be effective in “Capote” and “Moneyball,” but the pacing in Miller’s latest is too similar to du Pont’s aura.

Whether that analogy’s intentional or not, there are too many scenes that linger for too long on the screen. This could have been fixed with harder editing, but what’s surprising is that three-time Academy Award nominee Jay Cassidy worked on the film’s video editing.

Despite the flaws “Foxcatcher” may have, it’s another success from director Bennett Miller and perfect exposure for the raw talent of actors Steve Carell and Channing Tatum. It may be true that the lethargic pacing of the film was deliberately utilized to match its daunting atmosphere, but affordable edits could have been made to the final cut of “Foxcatcher” to make it more than just a worthy Oscar contender.