Foxcatcher : The Complexities of Self Worth

Steve Carell as John du Pont and Channing Tatum as Mark Schultz
Photo by Scott Garfield, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

Based on the true story of the Shultz brothers and multi-millionaire John du Pont; Director Bennett Miller uses an all-star cast to tell a tale of drugs, money, professional wrestling, and murder in the late 1990s. Miller studied old footage, interviewed the numerous people involved in the story including the du Pont family, and introduced his actors to their real life counterparts so as to get a well-informed view of the incidents that occurred. His dedication to telling true-life stories about events, people and their circumstances brings a real sense of authenticity and truth to his films.
Channing Tatum plays Mark Shultz, an Olympic medalist and two-time world champion in freestyle wrestling. Tatum may be notoriously known for his blockbuster comedies and stripper moves but he proves his acting chops with fierce intensity as he transforms himself into a cauliflower eared, sensitive souled, professional wrestler with apparent ease. While preparing for the role, Tatum met Shultz for dinner in New York and was taken by how the man moved, saying:

“Look at the way he walks, it’s such a beautiful indication of how he goes into the world. I just started studying everything about his movements and I found that was just the way in for me to such an emotional, physical and tangible person. I didn’t try to get into his intellectual side because he’s just such an emotional person.”

Steve Carell as John du Pont
Mark’s brother Dave Shultz is played by the skilled Mark Ruffalo who slips into his fighter’s pose with heartfelt sincerity as he becomes the ultimate hero of this enticing piece. A humble coach, talented athlete, and all around family man, Dave steps in as a father figure to the lost souls of Dave and du Pont that seem to gravitate towards him in search of a family. He is a rare character in that his nobility is not scarred by a pretentious nature or an overtly sentimental tone; he is quite simply a good man with kind intentions. Next to him his wife Nancy, played by Sienna Miller, is the ultimate American housewife – sweet, loving, and scrunchie wearing. Together, they stand as the stable and loving family that their fellow characters so desperately crave.

Tatum and Ruffalo are inspired in their performances; they lace their relationship with such candor and authenticity that the audience can’t help but feel won over by them both. Despite this, however, it is Steve Carell that steals the show. The funny man might best be known for his roles in movies such as Anchorman and The 40-Year-Old Virgin but his role as du Pont proves that he can morph into any role. Perhaps it is because of his comedic fame that Carell can hook his audience so efficiently. He manages to delude them into believing that John “Golden Eagle” du Pont is merely an eccentric oddball with a humorous style and super ego. It is the viewer’s familiarity with Carell’s inherent like-ability that becomes their ultimate downfall. When du Pont’s manner seamlessly slides from eccentric to awkward to frightening with unbearable ease, the audience can do nothing but squirm in their chairs, and watch as their protagonist unhinges. Carell brings drugs, sex, wealth, Hitchcockian mother issues and an air of delusional fantasy to his character that the audience can’t help but become transfixed by. They are left in awe of his looks, his oddity and his terrifying descent into violent madness.

 Channing Tatum (Mark Schultz), Mark Ruffalo (Dave Schultz)
Photo by Scott Garfield, Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
A morality tale at its core, Foxcatcher will enchant and entice its viewers from beginning to end. Miller’s insistence that film should imitate life in its ambiguity pays off enormously as he pulls his viewers into another character’s existence. Undetermined sexuality, blatant drug abuse, complicated relationships and the complexities of self-worth are all on the table for Miller. He drags his character’s stories across the screen and into each other so beautifully that you will begin to understand the world through their eyes.

—Sinann Fetherston

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