Review of: Foxcatcher
Foxcatcher is an Oscar worthy film by Bennett Miller (Copote – 2005, Moneyball – 2011). The story is based on the true story about John du Pont, the heir to one of America’s biggest family fortunes, and Mark and David Schultz, two Olympic wrestlers in the 1990s. This film is the one of the best of the year. It is portrait of characters heading towards a fate that at times is difficult to watch. But we can’t help but watch because we want to understand and/or love them. And even though we don’t know their fate (unless you Google the story) we feel the story will not end well.
John du Pont (Steve Carell) is such a huge fan and aspirant of wrestling that he wants to use his money to support the US Wrestling team in general, and David (Mark Ruffalo) and Mark (Channing Tatum) in particular. Steve Carell is all but invisible in the character of John du Pont. And it is not just from the makeup he wears, but more clearly how Carell captures a character whose motivations are so murky. He was able to take a physically tight/repressed and blank looking character and shows us his pain, sadness and even some of his madness with subtle movements, pacing in speech and a look in the eyes. Carell is not only one of our best comedic actors of our time but one of the best actors of our time. He should win the Best Actor Oscar this year.
John du Pont is repressed, sad and creepy, sometimes all at the same time. You can feel sorry for someone who has always had to buy friends (even his mother paid a boy to be his “best friend” when he was a child) but you can also be repulsed. Why is John supporting and mentoring the struggling Mark Schultz (Tatum)? I have read some reviewers that proposed that there is some sexual element to the fascination du Pont had for young men wrestling. However, I feel that is a lazy stereotype and did not see that in the story. What I saw was a lonely, delusional, man who could never please his distant mother. But still this is a story of a “love” triangle.
Channing Tatum plays the financially struggling Mark Schultz. Mark is physically strong but emotionally fragile. Mark Ruffalo plays the emotionally stronger brother David. David being more successful financially and stronger emotionally, does everything he can to train and support his little brother Mark. Both actors physically fit their roles. They learned all for the moves and even walked like wrestlers. But you also see the depth of the love and attachment the brothers have for each other. Thus it becomes heartbreaking to see Mark struggle to then see how John Du Pont makes it more and more difficult for David to help his brother.
But what about the triangle I mentioned? John originally wants to support the stronger David but has to settle for the more needy Mark. At first everything seems great but John is needy as well and when problems come up John finally is able to get David (“however much is costs”) to join them at the wrestling center and family estate called Foxcatcher Farms. They are all now living (along with David’s wife and kids) on the estate. So now we have a needy, certainly unstable, rich patron, a fragile young man wanting to come out from his brother’s shadow and the strong caring older brother who is finding it harder and harder to protect his little brother from a quickly deteriorating environment.
If you don’t already know the story, telling you more would spoil the film for you. And I recommend that you not read anything about the story and go see Foxcatcher with fresh eyes and as soon as possible. It will haunt you for years to come.
Sometimes those who seem the strongest or most powerful are actually the most fragile.