For love and sports, we make great sacrifices, despite sometimes not finding that satisfaction we seek, as happens to the protagonists of the true story in this 2014 movie, Foxcatcher.
This biopic begins by following the lives of the Schultz brothers, two excellent athletes who earned gold medals for wrestling.
But the younger one feel is not enough, believing he does not fully deserve the award and only won it because of his older brother’s help.
One day, he goes by invitation into the vast home of the Du Pont family, whose eldest son is a wrestling enthusiast, and offers to host and finance a team to compete in the upcoming World Championship.
Initially, there is an immediate understanding between these two men because, despite the enormous social gap, each sees a bit of himself in the other.
Indeed just as the wrestler envies his brother’s confidence and athletic cleverness, the wealthy scion desires more than anything the respect and approval of his mother, an older woman with a passion for horses and who is totally uninterested in wrestling.
Their partnership is enormously successful, and their team wins the world championship, strengthening their now unbreakable friendship and bond.
However, the comforts of wealth lead the athlete to relax too much and let go of his fitness, obviously to the enormous disappointment of his wealthy sponsor.
So his brother and the rest of the family move into the vast mansion, bringing the boy back under a strict athletic regimen and significantly improving the team’s skills.
However, what may seem a winning moment is actually the beginning of the end because the wealthy Du Pont is increasingly lonely and burdened by the certainty of having conquered nothing, but only to have given money to other people for doing so.
Sports passion and obsession
The obsession with success is certainly not a uniquely American prerogative, especially in the big and colorful sports world where we have seen all kinds of cheating and misconduct to achieve victory.
Bennett Miller scores the direction of a cold and essential biopic aiming directly at the story’s heart without sugarcoating everything with silly sentimentality or syncopated sporting exaltation.
Even before talking about wrestling, Foxcatcher is a movie that, in 2014, debates the most essential prerogatives for a human being.
A difference we see from the first minutes in the different lives of the Schultz brothers, where young Mark is consumed by uncertainty while the more responsible Dave is committed to building security for his wife and children.
Does the pursuit of athletic gratification not allow for a family, or is this a necessary sacrifice to enter the Olympus of the best ever?
Both are excellent athletes, and neither has anything to envy the other in sports, although Mark sometimes loses confidence and concentration during fights and needs Dave’s comfort and advice.
Indeed this boy does not seem to believe in himself enough, simply replacing one mentor with another when he comes under the wing of the elitist John Eleuthère du Pont.
However, the philanthropist lives his sporting passion in the worst way, seeking the respect of a mother who instead tells him face to face that, like everything else in his life, he simply bought these victories.
The director recounts with cruel precision the repeated denial of personal happiness and satisfaction for these two men, unable to enjoy their personal successes even for a brief moment.
And it is precisely when this relationship between them cracks irreparably we come to the last act taking us straight to the facts of the news making this dramatic true story famous.
A great acting fight
Besides Bennett Miller‘s solid and non-invasive direction, we have a top-notch cast carrying this harrowing human drama with outstanding commitment.
As I had mentioned in another article where I recommended the amusing Lucky Logan, I have never been a big fan of Channing Tatum. However, I recognize some good expressive talent beyond physical presence and power.
2014’s Foxcatcher is undoubtedly the movie where this actor delivers his best performance, playing a withdrawn and silent man who is challenging to read.
Moreover, the best side is he finally lets his drama and innermost thoughts shine through mainly with his gaze instead of dialogue.
Mark Ruffalo plays the more emotionally balanced brother, initially leaving him to pursue his adventure but then coming to help when he realizes the difficulty he is going through.
As usual, the actor is highly skilled at giving depth as he does in even the silliest roles, e.g., the famous David Banner/Hulk from the Avengers saga, which I like more for him than for the cine-comic character.
Putting aside those playing the Schultz brothers, above everyone, we have an extraordinary Steve Carell who, at times, is almost unrecognizable in a role we have never seen for him before.
Perhaps we have consistently underestimated him because of his comedic qualities. However, I already recommended Last Flag Flying and Welcome to Marwen, for example, where he offered two great dramatic performances.
In this case, his role is even more multifaceted, playing a strong but weak man, rich in money but poor in human connections.
Although he is the most negative character in this biopic, I felt great pity for him, primarily through the extraordinary Vanessa Redgrave, who, in a few words, sculpts this man’s harsh existence.