Ever since it was announced, I have been intrigued by Foxcatcher. Having not heard the story of John DuPont and the Schultz brothers before watching, I was intrigued as to what parts of the story merited it being turned into a film. Along with this, the casting of Steve Carell in a non-comedic role was really intriguing to me. After watching the film, I can say that my intrigue was well placed, this is a really captivating film.
The plot concerns the interaction between John DuPont, one of the richest men in America, and Mark Schultz, an Olympic gold winning wrestler, during the 1980s, in which DuPont financed Schultz, along with many other wrestlers under his Team Foxcatcher banner. Over the course of the film, we see the relationship between DuPont and Schultz deteriorate, whilst at the same time, seeing the changing relationship between these two and Mark’s brother Dave, another Olympic gold winner, which eventually leads to a tragic event. One of the main elements of the film that works is the way it is a critique of American patriotism, with DuPont wanting to use Team Foxcatcher in order to establish American dominance but, as the film progresses, it’s shown that his influence doesn’t really do anything that wasn’t already being done, for example, the Schultz brothers won Gold in the 84 Olympics in different categories whilst, after DuPont gets involved, Mark comes in 6th place at the 88 Olympics. The film also explores the idea of the dangers of masculinity, with DuPont and Mark wanting to make themselves the best men they can be, but we see that it has led to inferiority complexes developing within both of them, both of them feeling inadequate compared to their mother and brother respectively. We also see that Dave has not taken the idea of masculinity so seriously and we see that he is a much better person because of it, he has a stable social life and a loving family whilst Mark and DuPont have no-one. In many ways, the film shows DuPont and Mark to be kindred spirits, but it also shows the inherent creepiness in the relationship between them, with there being a lot of homoerotic undertones. This creepiness is aided by the way Bennett Miller directs the film, with the slow pace of the film adding up to this overall feeling of unease. However, this slow pace does have it drawbacks as there are some points in the film that are a bit boring, however this is more than made up for by how engaging the rest of the film is.
The main reason for how engaging the film is is because of how brilliant the performances are. Steve Carell is completely unrecognizable as DuPont. I’ve been used to seeing Carell as a comedic actor but I had no idea he could be so creepy in a film and, after watching some clips of the real DuPont, I have to say that Carell nails the mannerisms of DuPont, showing throughout the film that there is something seriously wrong with him. He also shows the ego that develops in someone like DuPont, seeing no problem in having people call him Golden Eagle. He also shows how DuPont can earn the trust of people despite his creepy personality by showing how he can play on the desires of people. Channing Tatum meanwhile gives a really intense performance as Mark. With very little dialogue we see how Mark constantly feels overshadowed by his brother and how Mark’s ideas of masculinity and perfection are seriously damaging any relationship he does have. Whenever Carell and Tatum are on screen together, they show the similarities between the characters and the brilliant chemistry between the pair adds to the homoerotic undertones of the film and as the film goes on, Tatum brilliantly shows how his ideas on the greatness of DuPont collapse, mainly after DuPont gets him addicted to cocaine. Mark Ruffalo meanwhile gives a really downplayed, friendly performance as Dave, showing him to be a family man through and through, devoted to his brother, wife and children in equal measure. It’s not as showy a performance as Carell or Tatum but there’s a real heart in there that makes him the emotional core of the film. Vanessa Redgrave does some great work in small scenes, showing the ideas of the upper class in American society and their views on certain forms of culture as beneath them. If there is a downside to the cast, it’s that Sienna Miller doesn’t get much to do as Dave’s wife Nancy, but the strength of Carell, Tatum and Ruffalo is what makes the film work as well as it does.
Overall, Foxcatcher is a really engaging film. Whilst there are points where the film goes a bit too slow and Sienna Miller doesn’t really get much to do, Bennett Miller’s direction, along with E Max Frye and Dan Futterman’s script, creates a really creepy tone throughout the film which the brilliant performances from Carell, Tatum and Ruffalo solidify.
My Rating: 4.5/5