In the film, Tatum and costar Mark Ruffalo play real-life Olympic wrestling brothers Mark and David Schultz. Carell stars as millionaire James du Pont, who forms an unlikely friendship with Tatum's Mark as he trains for the 1988 games in Seoul. It all comes tumbling down though when pressure to be No. 1 in the world of wrestling ends in murder.
So are critics loving the film as a whole as much as they're gushing over the acting performances? Read on for our Foxcatcher review roundup.
Like most, Vulture's David Edelstein praised Carell's performance. "It's hard to believe that's Steve Carell as the real-life weirdo John du Pont in his first scene in Foxcatcher," he writes. "It's an amazing transformation. Carell's long, fake beak isn't his, but he makes it his own. He tilts his head back 45 degrees and stares down it like a rifle sight. Otherwise, he's so abstracted that he's eerie." However, Edelstein critiqued the movie's monotonous, slow pace. "After that first meeting between Schultz and du Pont, Miller directs the next two crawly hours in exactly the same key. It's never clear why Schultz, from the opening frame, is sunk in gloom, another of God's Loneliest Men. And Carell runs out of variations. After an hour, all that's left is to watch him stare down his nose while his eyes get crazier and everyone around him pretends not to notice," he adds.
The A.V. Club gave Foxcatcher a C+ rating. "Within this vacuum of malaise, fine performers struggle valiantly to breathe life into their roles," A.A. Dowd write. "Shedding all traces of celebrity charisma, Tatum shows new shades of intensity, but he's only been given a single note to play—a bitterness as hard as his abs. Carell, meanwhile, overdoes the aristocratic creep routine. By many accounts, the real Du Pont was an odd duck, and doctors later diagnosed him as a paranoid schizophrenic. Even still, Carell's version of the fickle benefactor is all ghoulish caricature; acting through a prosthetic schnoz that makes him look like a live-action version of his Despicable Me character, the one-time Office star turns Du Pont into a leering, stilted gargoyle." Dowd also points out major issues with how Miller condensed the timeline of real-life events.
New York Times critic Manohla Dargis also praises the stars' acting. "Mr. Miller does his finest work with his three superb leads, though I wish he had made more room for Mr. Ruffalo, who enters and exits as Dave flashes in and out of Mark's life," she writes. "Some of the best scenes in the movie are of the brothers, including an early one in which they train in their old gym, hitting and grasping in a pantomime of aggression and affection, the crowns of their heads touching like the antlers of young stags testing each other. It's rare to see such physical male intimacy on screen, especially among men not bonded by war. And it's in the depictions of this intimacy, in its tangle of bodies and desires—the images of John squirming on top of and below other men say more than any of his pitiful speeches—that Foxcatcher rises to the occasion of real tragedy."
In a review titled "Foxcatcher Is Well-Acted, Unengaging," Forbes' Scott Mendelson writes, "It feels almost self-defeating to overly criticize a film like Foxcatcher. It is, on the surface, a well-constructed and superbly acted character drama, precisely the sort of thing we all want to see more of at the multiplex over the course of the whole movie going year. But it is a polished and handsome motion picture, one that arguably tries to make a larger point about American society from an economic and social point-of-view. I can admire the craft that went into the film and admire the contributions of director Bennett Miller and screenwriters E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman. I can certainly be the 3,824th critic to point out the strong central performances. But the story at the center of Foxcatcher is a thin and frankly hollow one, a tale riper with theoretical deeper meaning that doesn't necessarily match up with the onscreen events than any kind of present tense ‘as you are watching it' interest. I like what Foxcatcher is about, but I wasn't terribly involved in how it was about it."