No one can ever accuse director Bennett Miller of making films with one-dimensional characters. His previous two outings, “Capote” and “Moneyball,” focused on the brilliant, intriguing, and at times prickly Truman Capote, and baseball’s Billy Beane, respectively. In his latest, buzz-worthy biopic, “Foxcatcher,” Miller depicts the true-life, sordid story of Olympic Gold Medal winning brothers Mark and Dave Schultz and their unstable benefactor John du Pont (yes, of the American industrial dynasty, the DuPont’s).
A ripped from the headlines story that culminates in 1996, “Foxcatcher” chronicles the psychological triangle between older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), who for many years acted as both father figure and coach to younger brother, Mark (Channing Tatum), and the ridiculously wealthy du Pont (Steve Carell), who offers a state of the art wrestling training facility for Mark’s 1988 Olympic aspiration. “Foxcatcher” is the American dream gone awry.
Some called Dave one of the finest wrestlers who ever lived. Mark, who was equally talented, looked to get out from under Dave’s shadow. So it’s no wonder, then, that the impoverished Mark jumped at du Pont’s invitation to visit his posh Pennsylvania training facility. Since wrestling isn’t a marquee sport with huge endorsement deals, a wealthy benefactor to support a player and the sport would be an amazing coup. So overlooking the oddball, and at times creepy behavior of du Pont is a small price to pay if it gets you to the Olympics, right? Mark, and later Dave, agreed to play the game.
Without going into spoilers, know that “Foxcatcher” is a riveting film that unwinds in the manner of a slow burn. Tatum and Ruffalo, who watched endless hours of research and training videos to prepare for their roles, are highly watchable and believable as the two wrestling brothers. Carell is astounding (and nearly unrecognizable) as the beak-nosed, eccentric du Pont, whose goal is to lead, like his du Pont ancestors, even if it means he has to create or buy a team to lead. The excellent Vanessa Redgrave shows up as the formidable mother, Jean du Pont, who cares more about her horses than her son, John.
Miller researched this tale for years and worked extensively with his writers, first E. Max Frye and then Dan Futterman (who worked with Miller on “Capote”). Miller also solicited the services of wrestling coordinator John Giura to lend authenticity to the sport and the tale itself. Giura lived at the du Pont estate and was part of Team Foxcatcher. Cinematographer Greig Fraser and creative team filmed on several estates on the vicinity of Foxcatcher Farm, which is now a campus for the Episcopal Academy prep school.
“Foxcatcher” is one haunting true American story that will certainly be noticed this award season not only for its exceptional performances but also its fine tech credits.
Special filmmaker event, director Bennett Miller will appear for a Q&A on Saturday, November 15 after the 1:15 p.m. show at the Landmark Theatre, and then at the ArcLight Cinema Hollywood after the 2:45 p.m. show.
“Foxcatcher” is 134 minutes, Rated R and opens Friday, November 14 in Los Angeles at the Landmark Theatre and ArcLight Hollywood Cinema.