People have been curious about Foxcatcher ever since the trailer debuted online months ago. It’s been a buzzed about Oscar contender pretty much since people first heard about it. Fans were curious, asking “is that Steve Carell in there underneath that make-up and prosthetics?” Also “am I supposed to take Channing Tatum seriously?” The answer to both is, yes.
But the film has not resounded with pop audiences, pulling in $12 million as of this writing, a well less than spectacular figure for a film with this kind of buzz. Why is that? Let’s try to examine. First off, I personally think the film is excellent. I give it a B and it’s one of the tops of 2014. But then again, I have taste. America doesn’t see it that way. They just want something that they are interested in, where they can point at the screen and say “dude, I can relate to that!” And that’s the problem here. Not many people can relate to the events of this picture. You have an obscenely rich weirdo in his 50’s who is obsessed with young male wrestlers. That doesn’t describe most people.
This character, John du Pont, is portrayed by beloved comedic actor Steve Carell. Now, the people who will dutifully flock to the actor’s lighthearted comedy fare or episodes of The Office have stayed away from Foxcatcher in droves. Maybe it’s because they don’t know that it’s Steve Carell behind that make-up. But I would hazard a guess that the real reason has something to do with more serious, disturbing subject matter and a lack of any comic relief. People just don’t want to see their heroes being put in a low position, to paraphrase a line from the film. While Carell was a great choice for the role, he simply did not bring his fan-base along with him. Broad comedy fans said “I don’t want this material which makes my brain itchy…I want Dan in Real Life 2!” The studio and director Bennett Miller have to be pissed about that – Just another example of real art not paying off in the marketplace.
Neither does this flick appeal to Channing Tatum fans. Girls most definitely don’t want to see it, and it doesn’t help that there is almost zero female presence in the film. Tatum most certainly does not get to showcase his comedic stylings; this is not a funny picture, in case you haven’t figured this out yet. While Tatum gives a focused, intense performance, it is barren of the qualities that made him a superstar in the first place. So he shares that phenomenon with Carell in the film: toned down, gray, bleak outlooks and lifestyles for their characters. I guess what I’m saying is, for the mass public, this film just isn’t FUN enough.
A word about Mark Ruffalo. While he may not be a leading man type actor with a rabid cult of fans, he seems to bring something good to every movie he is in. No exception here, where he undertakes a remarkable physical transformation in order to embody a world champion wrestler. Basically, he bulked up and looks the part to a tee. He got nominated for and is going to lose the Supporting Actor Oscar, just like Carell is going to lose Best Actor. But both men are very deserving and turned in fantastic work. Of course this means nothing to the general audience. Who needs direction, tone, writing, acting, and suspense when you could just have broad laughs, special effects, cute cameos, and the studio hype machine? One thing always beats out the other (hint: it’s not the good thing).
So yes, Foxcatcher is a quality film worthy of your time. Does that mean that America will catch on? No. Is this film “too good” for the mass public? I don’t know. But it’s good enough for film dorks like me. Maybe people need to care more.