Foxcatcher was one of the only Oscar nominated movies that I did not get to see in theaters so I’m a little late watching it. Foxcatcher is one of the films that is very simple on the surface but you can peel away layer after layer and find new subplots and themes. It is the story of American wrestler Mark Schultz, his pursuit of his second Olympic gold medal and his relationship with millionaire John du Pont. Foxcatcher never lets itself get too open and revealing as it always feels like you’ve shown up to scenes a few seconds or minutes too late and leave for another scene too soon which kept the dark, intense feel of the film throughout.
In the beginning of the film, du Pont brings Schultz, played by Channing Tatum, to the horse farm where he grew up in Pennsylvania on what essentially was a recruiting trip. At the time, Schultz was training for the world championships and 1988 Olympics with his brother David, played incredibly by Mark Ruffalo, at a local high school gym. Mark’s trip to the Foxcatcher Farm felt like any college recruiting trip. Mark first met with du Pont in the ‘trophy room’ (horse trophies) where du Pont explains how he feels that the USA Wrestling Association hasn’t been taking care of their athletes. He then takes Mark to a brand new state of the art wrestling complex where he would like Mark to train for the upcoming events. When Mark is unable to lure David to join him on Team Foxcatcher, he goes it alone and recruits a team to train with. From that moment on, John du Pont begins his mental & physical takeover of Mark’s psychological state.
The three main actors in Foxcatcher were all at the top of the craft. Channing Tatum, who played Mark Schultz, really impressed as he is known for his heart throb & comedic roles. Tatum showed in Foxcatcher that he could play an intense role and actually add depth to the character. Foxcatcher is his finest acting job by far in my opinion. Mark Ruffalo who played David Schultz was masterful as always. He really embodied the presence of the character of David who was described as a ‘soft spoken bear’ and really pulled off being one of the top wrestling coaches in the world with is performance. Both Tatum & Ruffalo did a great job with their physical stance and presence in Foxcatcher. It was almost like they were wrestling life as they were constantly walking around with their shoulders up, head down and hands out front, even when they were in street clothes.
The star of the film was Steve Carell, who portrayed John du Pont to a T. Carell, who usually plays comedic roles, really spread his wings in Foxcatcher in his portrayal of du Pont. Every time he was on screen, you couldn’t take your eyes off of him. Whether it was his dark and powerful presence on screen or just how much you couldn’t tell if it was really Carell in that character. The true measure of an actor or actress is when they character takes over and the audience forgets that there is an actor or actress is performing. Steve Carell achieved that in Foxcatcher and his Oscar nomination was most definitely well deserved.
This was director Bennett Miller’s third film and so far in his career he is three for three with three home runs (Capote, Moneyball & now Foxcatcher). All three of his films are slow methodical films that are based on real events. He did a marvelous job with the telling of the Foxcatcher story which is ridiculous and dark in its own right but Miller did a great job getting you to almost sympathize with du Pont even though your instincts told you not to.
The sport of wrestling played a huge role in Foxcatcher. Obviously, it was the sport in which David & Mark Schultz were involved in but it is a sport where you literally force another human being to bend and move the way you want them to. Then in some instances you give the illusion of space and freedom which is just a trap for a better position or move. This is a huge metaphor for the relationship between John du Pont & Mark Schultz as de Pont intended to ‘break’ him and force him to do what he wanted almost like a puppet and he almost had him pinned. Foxcatcher is a deep, dark film which features an extremely dark character who lived a dark life. I would recommend Foxcatcher because it is based on actual events and because the acting & directing was absolutely top notch. If it weren’t for Carell’s superb performance, Channing Tatum would be getting a lot more praise for his portrayal of Mark Schultz in Foxcatcher.
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