Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo star in this true story about a multimillionaire who becomes a coach of an Olympic wrestler. Mark Schultz (Tatum) is a gold medal winning amateur wrestler, who lives under the shadow of his older brother Dave (Ruffalo). Out of the blue, Mark is contacted by multimillionaire John Eleuthère du Pont (Carell), who is heir to one of the wealthiest families in America. A fan of the sport of wrestling, du Pont gives Mark the offer to come train with him on Foxcatcher ranch. However, as Mark’s coach, du Pont turns out to be a highly controlling individual, who gets in between the relationship between Mark and his brother.
When you really think of it, there aren’t really many films that deal with amateur wrestling. While there are many who are familiar with professional wrestling and its pre-determined theatrics, I don’t think there are as many people familiar with the actual sport of wrestling, which is a much more technical contest. Of course, while wrestling is a large element of the plot of Foxcatcher, it is not really what the film is about. At it’s core, the film is about a somewhat delusional millionaire, who wants to take credit for the achievements of others. Mark and Dave Schultz both won gold medals at the 1984 Olympics and John du Pont wants to capitalize on these achievements when he becomes Mark’s coach, with him wanting to be seen as Mark’s father figure and mentor.
Probably the element of Foxcatcher that is getting the most attention is fact that Steve Carell gives an uncharacteristically serious performance with his lead role as John du Pont. With the help of prosthetics, Carell is practically unrecognizable as this somewhat odd multimillionaire, whose interest in wrestling is never really explained, even though it’s something that du Pont’s horse-loving mother (Vanessa Redgrave) despises. As for Channing Tatum, he portrays Mark Schultz as a big lug, who really needs guidance to succeed. Much to du Pont’s chagrin, much of this guidance comes from David, with Mark Ruffalo giving a pretty decent performance in the role.
Performances aside, Foxcatcher is merely so-so as a film. The film suffers from the problem of many films based on true stories, in which it is very easy to read up about these characters and find out exactly how the story turns out. In fact, knowing a central event beforehand somewhat changes the context of Foxcatcher, which spends much of its 134 minute running time focusing on Mark Schultz’s goals of winning Olympic gold for the second time. In fact, reading up about the events afterwards, I realized that the film has a sudden multi-year time jump towards the end, even though the film makes it seem like it was just months.
In some ways the real story behind Foxcatcher is somewhat more interesting than the film, since it fills in the blanks that the movie decided to omit. While Steve Carell definitely gives an attention-getting performance, the film itself is merely OK.7 | FAIR