The movie directed by Bennett Miller, from a script written by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, is based on actual grim events, surrounding the story of eccentric multi-millionaire John du Pont’s life. Award winning and nominated cast includes Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, and Vanessa Redgrave.
Although painfully slow in the beginning, the movie slowly builds a rhythmic air of suspense. John du Pont (Carell) is desperate to gain the respect of his stern, disapproving mother and begins coaching an olympics-worthy team of wrestlers. Among his early recruits is Mark Schultz (Tatum), a former Olympian, going through a rough time and living in circumstances of dire poverty. For du Pont, as may be the case with SOME super wealthy people, riches are not enough, he wants his team to win and he seeks to get immortalized in history.
Du Pont wants to bring in Mark’s brother, Dave Schultz (Ruffalo) to coach his team, but Dave refuses to uproot his family and join him. At first, it is Mark who joins du Pont on his estate and becomes his new “best friend”. Underneath immense wealth, Du Pont’s is a life of loneliness and despair and possibly of extreme ups and downs, resulting from his mental illness. Du Pont buys his friend, expensive things, also lures him into his drug habits, and confides to Mark that while growing up, his only best friend was the son of his mother’s chauffeur and when he turned 16, he found out “my mother was paying him to be my friend”.
Ultimately, du Pont does manage to lure Dave to come and work at Foxcatcher Farm. Carrel’s performance is so low key crazy-like, that a sense of dread is already beginning to seep in the film and you almost hope that something would make Dave leave du Pont. At this point, Mark is already disappointed, has fallen out with du Pont, and leaves the Foxcatcher farm.
When the violence comes, even though we know the events as they unfolded, it makes you feel incredibly sad, not only because there is no reason for it and it is totally incomprehensible, but deeply loving, loyal family man is the last person you want to see being hurt. This is also a story of deep brotherly love. Upon seeing the movie, Mark Schultz recalled that when he first received the news of his brother’s death, miles away, he trashed his office in anger and spent weeks in mourning for his brother.
The film struck a chord for me because I have an experience with highly eccentric person, in my multi-generational, extended family network. The tragedy is that he is immensely wealthy, and therefore gets away with incredible number of insane actions that ordinarily people would not get away with. It seems, society gives a very long rope to someone with wealth and power at their disposal, to behave crazy, ruthless, mean, mad, and sometimes to do things that are immoral or illegal.
Unfortunately, the movie misses an opportunity to invoke any ideas beyond portraying real-life events. Especially given that this story had extremely lethal combination of immense wealth and slow burning mild insanity, along with Mark du Pont’s relationship with political extremists, it would have provided a perfect platform for further exploration. It is nevertheless a fascinating story with excellent acting, and based on my rating of 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent, I rate the movie as 4.6.