Director: Bennett Miller
Genre: Drama/Psychological Thriller
Stars: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo
Summary: This film follows the brief but tragic relationship between the Schultz brothers and John du Pont between 1987 and 1996.
Critique: I subtracted one star for the minimal dialogue and underwhelming score. With the intense, layered content of this movie, I feel that a strong score could have grossly improved the film. If you’ve read my other reviews, you know I’m a sucker for a dark color palette and this film was perfect in that department. An added bonus was the archival footage and photography used throughout. The four stars are first and foremost for the OUTSTANDING makeup, second for acting, third for directing, and fourth for cinematography. The production, direction, and acting in this film makeup for any weak spots in the writing and soundtrack.
Review: On the surface, this movie follows the decade-long story of a very rich man using his money to live vicariously through a naive, young, Olympic wrestler under the guise of sponsoring the U.S. Men’s Wrestling team in the late ’80s and early ’90s.
That very rich man is John “Eagle” du Pont, played by Steve Carell. Du Pont seemingly purchases Mark Schulzt, played by Channing Tatum, and his brother Dave, played by Mark Ruffalo.
In a perverse, intense, and haunting portrayal, Foxcatcher shows the tragic effects of mental illness, insecurity, naiveté, and the exploitation of amateur athletes. Under the charade of competing with the Soviet Union, du Pont uses money and unbridled power to become the despot in his own totalitarian state.
With hints of The Most Dangerous Game it becomes obvious very early on in the film that Mr. Du Pont’s innocent proposition to sponsor U.S. Olympic Wrestling and help cultivate Mark Schultz’s talents is less for love of country and more to assuage his own feelings of inadequacy stemming from severe mental instability.
The linchpin of this film is the acting.
Steve Carell definitely proves that he is far from just a comedian. From facial ticks to breathing patterns and blinking, he captures every facet of John du Pont’s psychologically and physically stunted character.
Reminiscent of my feelings about Matthew McConaughey after seeing Mud, I feel like this will be Channing Tatum’s gateway to a more serious career in acting. Tatum uses his trademark authenticity to emphasize Mark Schultz’s innocence, hope, and desperation which propels the darkness of Carell’s character to much deeper depths.
While I believe and hope this film will be a springboard for Carell and Tatum, it also confirmed what I’ve known for many years: Mark Ruffalo is one of the most talented actors of this generation. His versatility as an actor is astonishing and this is yet another example. Ruffalo does a phenomenal job of portraying the conflicted relationship between Mark and Dave Schultz and Mr. Du Pont. While this movie is based on Mark Schultz’s biography, I do wish the film had emphasized Dave’s relationship with du Pont, allowing Ruffalo a stronger role in the story.
While the main topic of this film is the du Pont-Schultz relationship, there are underlying themes throughout that make Foxcatcher something much bigger than a traditional sports or biographical film. Paternalism, repressed sexuality, the Military Industrial Complex, class, wealth, exploitation, the implications of not-for-profit athletics, power, childhood abandonment, familial obligation, masculinity, oedipus complex, and mental illness each play a vital part in making this movie.
With simple dialogue, understated sound, and an emphasis on cinematography and acting this movie isn’t for everyone but it is definitely a must-see for anyone interested in a much darker side of the American Dream.
*I do not own the cover-image. All rights are reserved by the rightful owners.