Wow. What a great film. I’ve been a fan of Bennett Miller’s other directorial efforts (“Capote,” “Moneyball”) as well as of the trio of actors starring in this one. And true crime movies about crazy billionaires intrigue me, so I was eager to see “Foxcatcher.” It didn’t disappoint.
I’d read about Steve Carell’s prosthetic nose over and over, so I went into the theater determined not to let it distract me from his performance. It didn’t. It faded into the character of John DuPont, as did Carell in a giant departure from his comic roles. Here, he’s the socially inept heir to the DuPont fortune, living on the grand Pennsylvania estate with his withholding mother played by Vanessa Redgrave. He fancies himself as a leader of men, a patriot, a warrior and, tragically, a wrestling coach.
The story begins (at a glacial pace – my only complaint) when DuPont plucks Olympic Gold medalist Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) out of his sad, lonely life in the shadow of his more gregarious older brother, Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), also an Olympic Gold medalist in wrestling, and flies him by helicopter to the estate. He tells Mark he wants to be his mentor, that he’s going to give him financial support and build a championship team around him, that he will live there and train there and make America proud. Mark buys into the whole setup – he’s such a ripe target for DuPont’s abuse – until DuPont double crosses him and brings Dave to the estate and lavishes all his attention on him instead.
Miller gives the audience an intense character study of the three men, but what I found especially fascinating was the look inside the sport of wrestling. And not professional wrestling, where the participants are clowns faking their moves and wearing stupid costumes. This is the Olympic sport of wrestling and it’s beautiful and intimate and graceful. When Mark and Dave wrestle early in the film, it’s like watching two ballet dancers. Miller isn’t afraid to show men in a way that’s authentic – a rarity in this age of Judd Apatow arrested development bromance comedies. I wish there had been more of Redgrave and, as previously noted, the film does take its time getting going, but you can’t have everything. Oscar caliber performances by all in my opinion.