They say you can play baseball, football or basketball, but you don’t “play” wrestling. The sport is just different. Therefore, it makes sense that this sports story be very different indeed. Based on a true story, it’s an American tragedy that is as haunting as it is mesmerizing. This dark sports drama is not a feel good movie, does not offer many teachable moments and is certainly not for everyone. It is just told so well.
The pace is deliberate (slow), story sad, and characters bizarre, especially millionaire benefactor John du Pont (Steve Carell) heir to the du Pont Chemical fortune. Comedian Carell replaces his funny face with that of a functioning paranoid schizophrenic intent on sponsoring and coaching our Olympic wrestling team at his Pennsylvania estate.
The triangular relationship amongst Olympic gold medalists Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) and “the Eagle,” as du Pont so desperately wanted to be called, is riveting. The brothers share a common goal of representing their country in their quest for gold, while the Eagle uses his gold in his quest for respect.
Hunky Tatum effectively dials down his persona and dazzles with simple glares of internalizing anguish and frustrations caused by a dismal subsistence between Olympiads.
Meanwhile Ruffalo expresses an uber confidence in brother Dave’s natural leadership skills and zest for life. Both are ripe for exploitation by a sinister figure wrapped in the American dream. Du Pont views himself as a patriot as he explains, “Coach is the father, Coach is a mentor, Coach has great power on an athlete’s life.” Coach is nuts, so run far, run fast!
“Foxcatcher” is 134 minutes and rated R for drugs and violence. Whether you like this disturbing film or not, it is well-crafted, well-acted and memorable. However, even those who can appreciate it, might not want to see it again. The unsettling questions to our American values are “At what price glory?” and “Does wealth grant unfettered entitlement?” Reminds us of the wrestlers’ lament, “I was way ahead on points until I got pinned.”