The Peach State prepares for a political frenzy as a pair of January runoffs determine the balance of the Senate—and the shape of the presidency
Few things are more uncomfortable than watching a full five-minute scene of two muscled grown men in tights entangled in a tango of hugs, tugs, tumbles, and grunts. That’s a warm-up exercise between two wrestling-champion brothers in Foxcatcher —and a prelude to all the uneasy tension and unspoken emotions to follow.
Foxcatcher, rated R for some drug use and a scene of violence, is a true-crime drama that unfolds like a slow-motion horror movie. Director Bennett Miller dims the historical details and instead focuses on the bizarre relationship between John du Pont (Steve Carell), reclusive heir of the du Pont chemical fortune, and Mark (Channing Tatum) and Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo), the only American brothers pair to win both Olympic and World championships in wrestling.
The movie begins with Mark silently dining on raw ramen noodles and hot sauce. He’s simpleminded in his dedication—to wrestling, to America, to a second gold medal at the ’88 Olympics—but he’s hard to know with his dull expression and jutting jaw.
One night he gets a phone call from du Pont, who asks to meet him at his Foxcatcher Farm mansion in Pennsylvania. Sitting in a room gleaming with equestrian trophies, rich man and poor man awkwardly share dreams of glory and patriotism. When du Pont offers his support, Mark packs up and moves into du Pont’s estate.
Steve Carell is famous for playing hopeless and lovable losers, but du Pont is a loser in his own creepy category. Aside from his staggering wealth, du Pont’s hawk nose is the only prominent feature about him, and he knows it way too well. Growing up friendless and loveless under the dominance of his horse-obsessed mother, du Pont craves fraternity and adoration— and who might be more intimate and venerated than a mentor-coach of Olympic wrestlers?
Du Pont recognizes in Mark the same resentment from growing up under his older brother Dave’s shadow, so du Pont latches onto that common thread and starts spinning it around his own unfulfilled desires. Thus begins a soft but dangerous tussle of emotional manipulation and predation on the wrestling mat.
Foxcatcher is not an easy film to watch or love, but it’s winning Oscar buzz: Long after the closing credits, a stench of something sticky and savage lingers—the mark of a well-crafted psychological portrait.