Movie Review: Bennett Miller’s “Foxcatcher”

Published 12/30/14 by:

Foxcatcher Poster

  Eccentric millionaires seem to be a dime a dozen these days, but in the late 1980s, the general public was much less aware of their existence. So when John “Golden Eagle” du Pont (one of many heirs to the DuPont chemical manufacturing empire) requested the presence of 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist Mark Schultz (a freestyle wrestler from Palo Alto) at his Philadelphia estate, Mark understandably had to ask John who he was. And so, the strange legacy of Foxcatcher began.

    Mark, and his brother Dave Schultz, were both extremely decorated athletes. The brothers had dedicated their professional careers to coaching, and competing in the sport of wrestling. In 1986, Mark found himself in a financial lull, as Olympic wrestlers were not a hot commodity for lucrative sponsorships, or coaching positions. That’s when Mr. John du Pont called him. John was an avid athletic supporter, and thought that the sport of wrestling, and the wrestlers themselves, deserved bigger paychecks and more prestige than they currently were receiving in the United States. Mark was easily persuaded to move to Philadelphia and train at the first class facility John built for U.S. wrestlers to use. While Dave was invited back in 1986, he declined as he and his family were already established in the community he was coaching in. This left Mark (according to the film) in a vulnerable position, which is what the bizarre tale “Foxcatcher” focuses on.

    Steve Carell paints a haunting portrait of John’s essence: lonely, millionaire ornithologist. His awkward movements and gestures suggest someone who rarely leaves the comfort of his own estate, and is not used to hearing the word no from anyone. His obsession with winning, wrestling, and befriending Mark (ruthlessly portrayed by Channing Tatum) will make you cringe, but simultaneously sympathize with this peculiar man. It isn’t until Mark’s training gets derailed by John’s hard-partying ways, and insensitive outbursts that Dave Schultz (played by everyone’s favorite human teddy bear: Mark Ruffalo) finally arrives at Foxcatcher Farms.

    The dynamic between Carell, Ruffalo and Tatum is phenomenal. Carell is able to effortlessly demonstrate John’s sense of ownership over Mark, and the other wrestlers training at Foxcatcher, while Tatum flawlessly executes the psychosis of a fierce competitor being mentally toyed with by his mentor/proprietor. As the movie progresses towards its crescendo (the 1988 Olympics), we see Ruffalo’s ability to depict what a respectful coach and older brother should look like. While some moviegoers may deem the film as being too slow, or having the majority of the action in the last 40 minutes, Carell’s performance alone is worth seeing on the big screen.

Movie Grade: B-

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