Sunday, November 16, 2014


Director: Bennett Miller
Cast: Steve Carell , Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo,  Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave, Anthony Michael Hall, Guy Boyd

                            Review by James Colt Harrison

Foxcatcher is sure to be an Oscar® contender, with Channing Tatum and director Bennett Miller being singled out. Miller has already won the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival this year and Channing Tatum won the International Cinephile Society Award as Best Actor.

Although wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) had won a Gold Medal at the Olympics in 1984, a few years later he was down on his luck and living in poverty. A huge opportunity came his way with an offer from billionaire industrialist John DuPont (Steve Carell) of the famed DuPont chemical family. DuPont was a wrestling enthusiast and wanted to start up a new state-of-the-art training facility for some of the greatest wrestlers in America. It was built at his Foxcatcher Farm in the beautiful rolling hills of Pennsylvania. Schultz would move onto the farm and train there for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul,Korea.

DuPont was obsessed with winning and having credit go to him for allegedly “coaching” all the wrestlers. He was particularly interested in having Mark Schultz continue his gold medal-winning streak. Du Pont was obsessed with that idea and he was also obsessed with Shultz. It is not directly shown and only subtly implied, but DuPont may have had either emotional or sexual feelings for the much younger and handsome Shultz.

Much has been said about Carell’s performance. His appearance is completely changed, and he wears what looks like a version of the Groucho Marx Halloween nose without the glasses. Personally, his performance to this writer seemed zombie-like and listless. He stares into space and speaks his lines quietly with no verve or vitality. It’s a step away from comedy for Carell to bravely try drama. He does a decent job but nothing will knock you out. Only in a few scenes do his intentions seem menacing. One does get the feeling director Miller went easy on John in deference to the DuPont family.

On the other hand, Tatum is the best he has ever been. He completely captures the naivete, confusion, and angst of his Schultz character. He has even develped a bull dog-like stance and bow-legged walk as you would imagine a muscle-bound wrestler to have. His has transformed his jaw to jut out and look massive and dangerous as a pitbull. Tatum has the opportunity to run the gamut of emotions. He’s moody, he’s combative, he’s giddy. He manages to cry when necessary and is angry over his rivalry with his wrestler older brother David, played beautifully by Mark Ruffalo.

David is invited to come to Foxcatcher Farm to train the other men. At first he is a best buddy of DuPont, but gradually the two men have disagreements. Young Mark wanted to get out from the shadow of his older brother’s achievements. DuPont desperately wanted Mark to win at all costs. Perhaps he saw David as an obstruction, and that may have led DuPont to go off the rails and solve things with a gun.

John DuPont was born into the ultra wealthy and influential DuPont family November 22, 1938. He was only two years old when his parents divorced in 1941. He studied at the University of Miami and received a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology in 1965. He continued his studies for a doctorate in natural science at Villanova University in 1973. He was greatly interested in birds of the South Pacific and became a reknown ornithologist with several books to his credit.DuPont’s interests included stamp collecting, sports, coaching, conchology, ornithology and philanthropy.

After his mother died, he turned the former horse farm into a sports training facility. He sold off his mother’s Guernsey cows and her prize-winning horses. British actress Vanessa Redgrave comes in for a long cameo as his mother and, as usual, dominates her scenes. DuPont became a sponsor in swimming, track, pentathalon, and wrestling. He, himself, became a competitive wrestler at age 55 and competed in three world events.

Friends began to notice that DuPont began acting strangely about this time and did uncharacteristic things. He wasn’t exactly looney as a Jaybird, but he was felt to be a little “off” about some of his behavior. When he went on trial for the cold-blooded murder of David Schultz, DuPont was described by psychiatrists as a paranoid schizophrenic. He was led off to jail where he died at age 72 in 2010.

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