Director: Bennett Miller (Moneyball)
Screenplay: E. Max Frye (Palmetto), Dan Futterman (Capote)
Cast: Steve Carell (Evan Almighty), Channing Tatum (White House Down)
Runtime: 134 min.
by John DeSando
“Coach is the father. Coach is a mentor. Coach has great power on athlete's life.” John du Pont (Steve Carell)
Yes, John du Pont, the heir to a family fortune, would like to have been the man he describes above, but he was relegated to convening a winning wrestling team with the gold-medal winning brothers, Mark and David Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo). Based on a true story, Foxcatcher’s charm is how du Pont struggles to be a coach and father figure while ending up a benefactor at best, schizophrenic psycho at worst.
He spends considerable capital to get the team and spends even more emotional expense (as much as any psychotic can feel deeply) to keep it together given his rocky relationship with the younger brother, Mark, and growing unease with Dave (Mark Ruffalo), Mark’s brother, who is the kind of coach John would have liked to be.
Director Michael Bennett, as he did in Moneyball and Capote, emphasizes character above all else, with lengthy shots of discussions or no conversation at all. Although the focus of the film would seem to center around John’s struggle for world-wide acceptance as a major coach, the truth is no one likes him and he has no talent. His body guard even pays off John’s wrestling opponent in a public match of seniors just as his mother paid a kid to be John’s best friend when he was young.
The acting in this true-life drama is first rate: Carell, against type, is mesmerizing with his large nose, slumped posture, and self-conscious mien; Mark Ruffalo was a notable high school wrestler; Channing Tatum plays the conflicted and introverted athlete with an intensity he has not shown before.
The film is especially adept at incrementally exposing the lethal propensity in John’s obsession and the privilege wealth gives him. We are never prepared for the surprising ending (unless you remember late ‘80’s news about the incident). If you don’t know the ending, don’t Google. Be surprised as I was.
John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.rr.com