Movie review: Foxcatcher (2014)

Teasing apart truth from fiction is often impossible in movies based on true stories. Where does reality leave off and artistic license begin?

Based on a true story, Foxcatcher leaves me wondering what really happened at that farm/wrestling training center in Pennsylvania. I don’t wonder about the end result—one man shot dead and du Pont dying behind bars—but all the bits that led up to it. What really were the main characters like and how did they interact?

Foxcatcher focuses on two brothers who are Olympic gold medal wrestlers (1984)—David and Mark Schultz—and one eccentric wealthy man—John du Pont. John du Pont was a huge fan of wrestling, to the point that he built a wrestling facility on his property and approached Mark Schultz about coaching a team there in 1986. du Pont was a self-proclaimed patriot who really hoped to see the US soar again.

The movie covers a ten-year period but focuses on 1986, when Mark was first approached by du Pont, to 1988, when Mark left Foxcatcher. During these two years, we see interactions between du Pont, Mark, and David.

du Pont is portrayed as sporadically acting in odd ways, which hints at possible mental health issues and not just the eccentricities of the wealthy. He shows up at wrestling practice with a gun that he fires. He buys a tank but refuses to sign for it when it arrives because it is not equipped with a type of weapon that he ordered. He shows up at Mark’s residence in the middle of the night demanding personal practice time. All of these things, and others, are odd.

du Pont really took Mark under his wing. He saw himself as a mentor or father figure to Mark. The two of them had a close friendship at least for a period of time until du Pont suddenly turned on Mark. The relations between the two were never the same again, and neither was Mark’s time at Foxcatcher. After his disappointing placement at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Mark left Foxcatcher.

Despite how accurate the particulars of the story are, Foxcatcher is full of outstanding performances. I was particularly impressed by Steve Carell’s performance as John du Pont. Usually the funny man, Carell immerses himself completely into du Pont to the point that he is unrecognizable. With Foxcatcher, Carell proves that he can take on serious dramatic roles. I look forward to seeing him in more of those roles.

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