Foxcatcher (2014)

Director: Bennett Miller
Writers: E. Max Frye, Dan Futterman
Stars: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Vanessa Redgrave

Running Time:  134 mins.

Set in the late 1980s, Foxcatcher tells the true tale of how a pair of champion wrestling brothers came to be entwined with eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont of the famous and powerful DuPont family and the tragic circumstances that unfolded.  

Steve Carell steps away from his comedy chops to portray a seemingly sedate du Pont who says he wants nothing more than to train men and give America hope.  The theme of American greatness, in fact, threads itself throughout the film.   

When du Pont contacts Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and offers him the chance of a lifetime to form a wrestling team and train for the 1988 Seoul Olympics at his new state-of-the-art training facility, the financially strapped wrestler jumps at the chance.  Mark is set up in an extravagant guest house on du Pont’s vast acreage near Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and immediately given a crash course on the history of the family’s fortune.  Mark wanted his brother to join him but David has a family and doesn’t want to uproot himself so Mark goes about training for the first challege in the 1987 World Championships in France, a mere two months away.  

As for the team Mark assembles, they are little more than background to the larger story of du Pont and the Schultz brothers because not a single character has any personality and all they get to do is run through the woods and grapple a bit.  

Little by little it becomes clear that du Pont isn’t merely being altruistic in his support of the U.S. wrestling team.  Mark feels as if he’s gained a father in du Pont but du Pont feels, as “coach”, that he’s the lifeblood of the team and suddenly has become relevant to himself as much as to his disapproving mother (Vanessa Redgrave) who thinks wrestling is for lowlifes. du Pont’s able to use his influence to push Mark  into a destructive direction that he would never have gone under any other circumstance and it’s the beginning of the end for this talented athlete.

Oddly, du Pont calls for reinforcements and convinces brother David to come to Pennsylvania and join the team.  With real experience under his belt, David becomes the real coach and du Pont is left on the sidelines in his short-shorts looking largely irrelevant.  

What transpires is an unfortunate set of events proving the old adages ‘money can’t buy happiness’ and ‘be careful what you wish for’.

Lotta says overall the film is slow and deliberate just like Carell’s delivery as du Pont.  The performances are excellent and Carell has carved himself a new career as a dramatic actor after this one.  When we first see Tatum’s Mark he’s plodding and unsure of himself.  His physicality perfectly depicts his attitude during the course of events.  He has more downs than ups and sadly his story ends as it began, alone. On the other hand, David’s changes dramatically as does du Pont’s but this is not the kind of film where large conflicts resonate.  It’s all under the radar, subdued in its bleakness and action.  As such it’s a pretty dismal film about a very dismal subject.  See it for the worthwhile performances.