Foxcatcher is the true story of a very rich man who becomes obsessed with two wrestlers. It's also one of the best movies of the year.
John du Pont was a multi-millionaire, a scion of the very wealthy American family that made their fortune in chemicals. He also died in prison 2012 after murdering a famous Olympic athlete.
Foxcatcher tells the riveting story of du Pont and his involvement in the sport of wrestling in the late 1980's. It's also a tale of how one man with so much money can buy whatever he wants. And du Pont pretty much buys Mark Schultz, an Olympic Gold Medal-winning wrestler in Athens in 1984. Du Pont calls Schultz (played by Channing Tatum) and takes him away from his post Olympic miserable life and places him on his amazing estate called Valley Forge in the hopes of transforming him back into a world class athlete. Du Pont lures Schultz by offering him practically whatever he wants, including his own lodge on the estate as well as a newly-built state of the art wrestling auditorium. And Du Pont tells Schultz that he's in charge. But there's something more that seems to be taking place between Du Pont and Schultz. Their's is not only a business relationship between them, but Du Pont seems to have a homoerotic fascination with Schultz. And while there are no explicit homosexual scenes in the film, Du Pont's fascination with Schulz and with the sport of wrestling is homoerotic and at the same time very creepy. It becomes more so when Du Pont starts sharing cocaine with Schulz and even has him speak the opening remarks at an important speech in front of politicians and wealthy people.
But things turn sour when all of a sudden Du Pont says he's not happy with Schulz's way of coaching as he catches all of the wrestlers taking a morning off, and he slaps Schultz in front of the other wrestlers. It's an action that sets off something in Schultz in which he (probably) realizes that Du Pont sees their relationship as something more. It gets more complicated when Du Pont brings in (at any cost) Schulz's brother David, who was also an Olympic Gold Medal winning wrestler. Du Pont has David coach the team, while Mark goes about the motions, trying to stay out of Du Pont's way but at the same time focusing on his training. His goal is to get to the next Olympics - Seoul - and he does, but things don't turn out the way Du Pont had in mind. And it all leads to a devastating conclusion.
Foxcatcher is the name the du Pont's gave to their racing horses. It's also an appropriate name for this film - what was the Fox - trying to catch. Is du Pont the fox who was trying to catch something with his sudden and strange interest in wrestling? The lure of money was all that was needed for him to catch Mark Schultz, who was down on his luck living in a small apartment on the top of a garage years after his Olympic win. David Schultz had a happy life with his wife and two kids, but it was also the lure of money that got him to go work for Du Pont, a job that cost him his life at the hands of Du Pont.
Foxcatcher is an excellent movie. It's also excellent because of the performances of it's three leading men. Tatum has never been better. His Mark Schultz is vulnerable, bold, athletic, infantile yet very masculine - Tatum pretty much carries the whole movie. Ruffalo gives David Schultz a face - a family man who heeded the call to coach a world class team which included his younger brother. And he does a very good job. The performance, however, that everyone is talking about is Steven Carrell as Jon du Pont. Carrell, unrecognizable, wears a prosthetic nose to match the large nose that Du Pont had. Everything about Carrell's performance is all Jon du Pont - even down to his gait. Carrell, the star comedic movies such as Anchorman, Date Night, Knocked Up, among others, is completely amazing. And it's a transformation that needs to be seen to be believed. It is, unfortunately, Carrell's performance that is getting all the attention, but in my opinion Foxcatcher is Tatum's movie. He's the actual star of the film as he's in most of the film. Foxcatcher begins with him and ends with him, and throughout his performance is consistent, solid, and amazing. He deserves the Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Best Actor nominations as much as Carrell does, yet Tatum's not been nominated. Ruffalo performance is gentle, simple, low key, the kind of performances that Ruffalo always gives, successfully.
Director Bennett Miller (Moneyball) and writers E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman have crafted a film that succeeds on every level. It's directed and shot tight, the story never gets dull, and it's intensity builds up to shattering conclusion. Miller has directed three actors who all come from different cinematic backgrounds into one film where they all excel in ways they have never done before. Foxcatcher is not the best film of the year, but it pretty much comes damn close.