Coach is the father. Coach is a mentor. Coach has great power on athlete's life.

Coach is the father. Coach is a mentor. Coach has great power on athlete’s life.

There’s what we want, and what’s good for us…and those things very seldom intersect. Whether that want is driven by greed or insecurity, it should always be seen for what it is: restlessness manifesting itself in a terrible way. The problem is too few of us – both people with means and people without – learn this lesson the easy way.

FOXCATCHER is the story of Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). After winning a gold medal for wrestling at the 1984 Olympics, Mark finds himself somewhat adrift. He is taking speaking engagements to make ends meet, living in a run-down apartment, and not feeling at home in his training regiment. It’s at this moment that he is approached by representatives for a philanthropist named John duPont.

duPont (Steve Carell) is a man of great means and modest outlets. He has done the requisite amount to add to his family’s fortune, and now he lives like a king in a giant estate in rural Pennsylvania named Foxcatcher Farm. It seems as though something about the sport of wrestling fascinates him, and he wants Foxcatcher to be the training facility for America’s top wrestlers heading into the 1987 World Championships, and after that, The 1988 Olympics. Why? Why not.

duPont persuades Schultz to come out as his star athlete, hoping he can serve as assistant coach and inspire the already-assembled team. Soon after, the two strike up a curious relationship…Schultz becomes for duPont a surrogate son, a prized pupil, and a handsome piece of arm candy.

However, their relationship – every facet of it becomes strained. It’s then that both sides feel as though Mark’s brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) is required to join the team as well. Mark reluctantly agrees, but only manages to make things more complicated.
Steve Carell in Foxcatcher

FOXCATCHER is a story obsessed with legacy. On one side of the coin, we have Mark Schultz – an olympic gold medalist who should puff his chest out with pride. Instead, he constantly seems to be walking in his older brother’s shadow. He looks to him for his cues, for affirmation, and ultimately for a bar that must be cleared. It’s a difficult, yet familiar position since our impressions of our own family members can often set standards they don’t expect us to meet. So rather than be proud of who he is, and what he has accomplished, Mark spends many days mad at himself for not being Dave.

On the flip side with have duPont, who is trying to establish his place within the vast years of success his family has forged. While specifically trying to please his mother – something every boy fights with once in his life – duPont seems restless to make a mark and be admired. Nothing he has done until now matters; hell, if it did, we would be told about it. All we know is that the duPont name has been a pillar of its community for more than one century, and John is eagre to play his part.

We have to believe that’s why duPont wants to coach. Not only does he want to leave a mark in this world, but he wants to do it on impressionable minds…and lord knows fewer minds are more impressionable than young athletes. What he learns though – and what we are reminded of – is that coaching isn’t for everybody. Even star athletes sometimes cannot make the jump to coaching. So not only will duPont not leave a mark in this fashion, but he will fail at it spectacularly.

Watching all of this swirl around Tatum and Carell is incredible. Tatum seems at times like he’s auditioning for PLANET OF THE APES, as he bows his head, puffs out his chest, and juts out his jaw. Every trace of charisma the man has is gone, and instead we see him as a sad, broken, blunt instrument drowning in self-loathing. In the other corner, Carell is almost unrecognizable. He looks down his nose at us, seldom speaks above a whisper, and shuffles from place to place with all the grace of a crossing guard. The two have such an amazing chemistry together, and seeing it get needled by Mark Ruffalo’s arrival halfway through the film is incredible.

More than anything, FOXCATCHER is a disquieting film. It evokes the isolation of the farm it takes place on by staying very remote and cold. There’s no flaw in this, after all its the luxury one is afforded when they are given the funds to build a lavish life for themselves…or tell the story of one who has. However, if one has trouble settling into that world as an outsider, it can be understood. We are more attuned to feelings of warmth, of clutter, of give-and-take. Stepping into a space that any one person has built as a hallowed temple for themselves can be disconcerting – and that disconcerting feeling echoes throughout much of FOXCATCHER.

Ultimately though, this film is a scathing indictment of those that cannot do but still want. “Money is power” as the old saying goes, and for some that power is wielded in very selfish ways. They believe that what they lack in pure talent can be made up for by exerting influence and bequeathing gifts. It may seem as though they are just trying to be charitable and show financial support, but more often than not it’s an “ego thing”. Someone like duPont cannot wrestle himself, fascinated as he me be with it, so he hires someone to wrestle for him – with the name of his home on the back of the athlete’s jacket. That duPont cannot wrestle is no sad tale, but seeing him still want to do it, and to basically buy the Schultz brothers so they can wrestle for him is sickening.

Too often, such want leads to lives wasted and lives ruined. FOXCATCHER is a document of both.

Matineescore: ★ ★ ★ out of ★ ★ ★ ★
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