Twitter Plot Summary: Based on a true story, the relationship between rich guy John du Pont and Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz.
There will always apparently be an issue with wrestling, quite unfortunately, that it all appears to be quite a homo-erotic exercise. That of course is taken to an all new level in Foxcatcher, the story of Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Tatum) and his brother David (Ruffalo) as they deal with prospective wrestling coach John du Pont (Carell), a rich, near-friendless man who has no concept of standard societal norms. His reasons for setting up his wrestling foundation are designed primarily to rebel against his mother and her love of horses. She considers wrestling to be a lowly sport, which he bristles against, and so he sets up his Foxcatcher training ranch, a place for budding Olympic wrestlers to learn the skills of the trade. For those of you who are not fans of the sport, don’t worry – it’s not the focus of the story. This is all about the relationships between the characters.
Awkwardness abounds at every point as du Pont attempts to ingratiate himself in the lives of the two brothers and essentially feed off their success. Revelations that du Pont’s mother paid for him to have a friend in his childhood come as no surprise as he shows up to speak with Mark in the dead of night, carries guns around with him and has an obsession with military weaponry. His desire to be known as Eagle clearly places him in Arnold Rimmer territory, an insidious and confusing personality who has far more money than worldly sense.
Despite the wild praise aimed at Steve Carell and Channing Tatum (although it is much deserved), it’s Mark Ruffalo that runs away with the best performance as older brother Dave. He’s an easy going and affable family man, oblivious to the shadow his younger brother feels is being cast over him. It is this that forces Mark to move to Foxcatcher in an attempt at breaking out on his own and to establish his own identity away from Dave. Their relationship is clearly defined with no need for expository dialogue, and proves to be a highlight of the film – especially when compared against the one between du Pont and Mark.
Yet despite its quiet intensity – one that is punctuated by an extreme and surprisingly loud act of violence in the final act – it’s almost a little too staid for its own good. Those events at the end are all the more shocking given the tense build-up and more so if you are not aware of the real life story, but a greater sense of narrative drive earlier on would have helped push things along. Instead we get some decent character development but no incentive for the audience to really invest in them.
The story does take some liberties with the timing of events, condensing everything into the late 1980s rather than over a period of several years as in reality, but from a dramatic perspective this is in the story’s favour. Without this it no doubt would have meandered even more than it does. That’s not to say it isn’t a strong film, just that in this case it is supported more by great performances than a gripping thriller narrative.