Foxcatcher is the hypnotically told and compellingly unglamorous story of the Schultz brothers’ dealings with John Du Pont and the testosterone-rich, underground world of wrestling.
It is a somber and dark thriller based on the public record of a world-champion wrestler living in the shadow of his older brother. Billionaire John Du Pont propositions Mark in an attempt to propel American sport to Olympic greatness. The brothers’ both find themselves dragged into a world of privilege and prejudice, into an empire built on a chemical dynasty. Somehow, Miller avoids the predictable sensationalism with a screenplay made absorbing through the rich, vivid characters.
The film is largely a satire of American exceptionalism; of the corrupting power of wealth and unchecked privilege. You can tangibly feel depravity eating away at each character as they are consumed by a lingering dissatisfaction – inspiring pity along with real disgust. Du Pont is a character of patriotism and extravagancy, unfulfilled desires, incalculable wealth and mummy issues that result in twisted anger and resentment through his attempt to buy self-validation. Yet his world is deeply lonely. Something which is captured by the flat cinematography, unsaturated colors and a hushed, restrained tone. The film explores the class system; taking a scalpel to inherited money and abuse of influence that comes with entitlement in modern America.
Steve Carrell plays the pathetic and terrifying Du Pont, inhibiting the character from the inside with incredible conviction. Whilst delivering an entirely charismatic performance, the actor makes you believe the character is an entirely uncharismatic man. Behind the pallid skin and prosthetic nose, his utter weirdness conveys a performance that may be comic if it wasn’t so tragic. Equally, Tatum’s uncomfortable inarticulacy and perpetual surliness delivers an emotionally complex depiction as the financial beneficiary of Du Pont’s egotistical hunger. The irresistibly likeable Ruffalo, who plays Dave, is as grounded and pragmatic as Du Pont is enigmatic.
The film is not conventionally fun to watch. It examines the basic questions of human psychology, it is bizarre, bewildering and at times, terribly sad. The performances are flawless and convey a poisonous emotional triangle with a slow-burning intimacy. All three leads are mesmerizing and through this, Miller manages to find a human pulse behind the tabloid headlines that easily could have turned sickly and sensational. The opening scene of the brothers wrestling captures the familiarity and bitterness that lies between the brothers, silently and without dramatic overstatement. The final and fatal act avoids melodrama, captured in the same emotionless stillness.
The film is deliberately paced, utterly gripping and beautifully evocative. It is a strange experience to watch, with a cold and inevitable ending. Despite the absence of a singular, grandiose statement, the film resonates on more than one level, inviting intrigue and offering insight.