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A powerfully deep and moving film explores more than just wrestling.


Lost souls can come in an abundance of forms. There is no mold that can be shown specifically for this type of personal turmoil. Even something as healing as time cannot mend the bitterly crippling reality of loneliness. Foxcatcher is a story of emotional damage from many different perspectives. Interior destruction is the crux of this film, yet director Bennett Miller manages to allow it lay quite still, buried at the bottom of the delivery, so that its impact can only be felt when it all comes crashing down on top of us. The delivery is wrapped with gloomy shots of the prestigious Foxcatcher Ranch, devastating moments of stroppy interactions, and a dormant intensity, that at times can be almost terrifying. More than anything, the performances in this film are transforming. Carell, Tatum, and Ruffalo all deliver beyond what anyone could have expected in this film. We are given three characters that are able to effect our emotional state in a plethora of different ways. Miller brings us a film that is of a different time. Editing and styles that have not been seen for years create an atmosphere that is sure to reverberate in all the right ways.



Mark Schultz (Tatum) is a troubling display of disconnected youth. After winning a gold medal for wrestling, along with his older brother Dave (Ruffalo), in the 1984 Olympic games, Mark idles along in life, speaking in auditoriums to uninterested children. We truly see the loneliness of Mark Shultz in the opening scene, when Tatum ferociously wrestles against a faceless dummy. Mark works tirelessly with his brother Dave, training for the 1988 Olympics. Dave is clearly the only person that Mark has in his life. He is a stable man with a family, and he is lucidly aware of the disconnect that has always been a burden on his younger brother. Mark is given an opportunity from the millionaire shut in, John E. Du Pont (Carell). Du Pont invites Mark to come and stay with him on the Foxcatcher Farms estate, and train in his state of the art facilities. In addition to the appeal of the set up that Mark has at Foxcatcher, Du Pont also represents a father figure for Mark that is impossible to ignore.



Over the past decade, we have come to expect excellence from Mark Ruffalo, yet somehow he continues to shock with each and every performance. As possibly the only relatable character of the film, Ruffalo’s Dave Shultz is played perfectly. We get a sense for how fragile he knows his younger brother is, and he is truly the only person who can coach him effectively. Carell gives, without question, the most influential performance of his career. In an unrecognizable transformation, Carell shows the delusions and demons of the man that was John E. Du Pont. Consumed with his self appointed image of a patriot and a leader, Du Pont brings Mark Shultz in with an agenda to satisfy his own struggles and issues. Carell is breathtaking. He manages to bring his brilliant comedic talents at times, and in the same scene he makes us feel overwhelmed with discomfort and fear. There is a pain that lives inside of Du Pont, and Carell transfers those feelings to the entire audience. The performance that no one is talking about, for reasons that cannot be fathomed, is that of Channing Tatum. Tatum is nothing short of mesmerizing. Few times has a role been executed on so many levels. From his short sentences and troubled looks, to the way that he moved on both the wrestling mat and just walking in a room, Tatum absolutely became Mark Shultz. These three men delivered career-molding performances.



Whilst living on the Foxcatcher estate, Mark falls for the care and attention that he is given by Du Pont. In his eyes, he has found a man that loves him like a son, and wants to see him succeed. They select a US team to compete for the Olympics, and Mark is the centerpiece of all of it. Amidst the success of the wrestlers, Du Pont sees a chance to claim his own victories. In the trophy room of the estate, the walls are awash with equestrian medals and accolades. Du Pont reveals the love that his mother has for horses and competition. It is a love, and more importantly a talent, that he never possessed. There is a disappointment that Du Pont’s mother has for him, that clearly breaks him apart day by day. The reasons for constructing this team evidently have a larger meaning for him.





As the relationship between Mark and Du Pont grows, it becomes more destructive. Mark is introduced to cocaine, and his training is distracted by the desperation of Du Pont to prove himself to his mother. Being an effective coach and leader takes first position to Mark competing for a gold medal. There is a haunting inappropriateness to the relationship that cannot be ignored. Director Bennett Miller marvelously keeps this aspect subtle, while still being extremely noticeable. The story is dense, with so many different components, however it never drags. There is a transformation for Mark that seems to hit us too fast. He is launched into a binge of cocaine, and sports a new bleached hairstyle that seems to come out of nowhere. This is the one exception to an otherwise brilliantly cut film.



After Du Pont makes Dave a coaching offer that he cannot refuse, Dave and his family are moved onto the estate, and things take a turn for the worse. Mark realizes that Du Pont was using him, and after an overseas match goes poorly, he takes it out on himself. In possibly the most powerful scene of the film, Tatum begins beating himself senseless in his hotel room, smashing his head through a mirror, and gorging himself on food to throw off his weight. His reaction shows the traumatizing effects that Du Pont has had on him. With this scene, Miller creates the moment that defines Mark. Du Pont has brought these men into a world with his money and it begins to corrupt them. Dave is forced to cave in front of a camera for a promotional video, where he says that Du Pont is a mentor to him. Something that Dave would never agree to under different circumstances.



Ultimately, Foxcatcher is a bitterly sad story that weighs quite heavily on the audience. Miller translates John Du Pont as an idea of what America once was. He is a man lost in the ideas created in his mind of what an American should stand for. At the end of the day, Du Pont is just another lost little boy whose mother paid people to be friends with him. He is crippled by his awkwardness: the root for his mother’s disappointment, and a fate that could drive any man to a disastrous end. It is remarkable that the times when Mark and Du Pont are together in friendship seem to be the times when these two forgotten children appear most whole. Foxcatcher is a film unlike any in recent memory. It is most deserved of all of its praise.


About The Author

Contributing Writer

Dan graduated from Babson College with a BS in Marketing and Business Management. Since graduating from college, he has moved to Los Angeles where he works as a writer and actor. Dan is working on numerous screen plays and shorts for both TV and film. Some of my work can be seen on Funny Or Die.