Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is a gold medal winning Olympic athlete, having won in the ’84 Olympics in Los Angeles, but he has almost nothing to show for it, aside from the medal. He lives alone in a shitty apartment, eats microwaveable noodles, and only source of income is $20 for a speaking engagement at a local school, which his brother passed up. Said brother, Dave (Mark Ruffalo), a fellow wrestling Olympian medalist, seems to have his life together — a wife, kids, and a coaching job at a college. Then Mark receives a call of a lifetime, multimillionaire John Du Pont (Steve Carell) wants to start up a wrestling school at his Foxcatcher compound in Pennsylvania and he wants Mark to not only train there (and get paid for it) but run it with him. He also wants Dave, but Dave doesn’t want to uproot his family and life for this too good to be true job, or as Mark bluntly puts it, “Dave can’t be bought.” So Mark goes there alone, recruiting other athletes, training together, and taken under Du Pont’s wing, where they share a strange mentor/mentee relationship with paternal and sexual undertones. Not only is Du Pont rich, but he’s a creepy loner who invites cops over to shoot at his firing range and buys tanks from the army. And it becomes clear that he’s trying to build a world-class wrestling team to rival his mother’s world-class horse breeding, despite the fact that he’ll never win her affections over his pursuit of the “low” sport. The relationship between Mark and Du Pont becomes toxic, not because of Du Pont’s ambitious sexuality, but because he’s a coke addict who introduces that world to Mark. And when they finally are able to lure Dave to train at the compound, things start to fall apart.
Foxcatcher is a well-acted, well-directed movie that has an extremely slow build to the quick and inevitable conclusion. Does that make it good or bad? A little of both, as what happens isn’t as important as the relationship dynamics at play with the triangle of Mark, John and David. The acting from the three actors is great, but nothing that really blew me away (I guess it doesn’t help that Ruffalo is excellent in most roles he takes.) In addition to the simplified story I had a couple of other problems with the movie, the first being the murky timeline. Months and years pass by and/or are compressed to make it feel as though the movie takes place over the course of a year or so, when in reality the events unfolded over a decade. Also I could not get over how throughout the course of the entire movie no one comments or points out how Du Pont seems to be a little off his rocker. That lack of awareness from the characters kept me slightly detached from them, as if they were in a fantasyland where craziness goes unnoticed. So while the storytelling is simple and slow, the performances and characters try to make up for it, and for the most part do, making it worthy enough to recommend checking out if not in theaters, then definitely later at home.