By William Wolf

NEW YORK FILM FESTIVAL 2014--FOXCATCHER  Send This Review to a Friend

You don’t have to like wrestling to enjoy “Foxcatcher,” a main slate selection in the 2014 New York Film Festival. Directed by Bennett Miller from a screenplay by E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman, “Foxcatcher” spins a bizarre tale based on a real life case marked by a fatal shooting.

Steve Carrell plays John du Pont of the renowned wealthy family, a maniacal sports fan with a fanatical desire to be winner and add to his abundant trophies. He is bent on being a mentor of an Olympic wrestling team that must win at all costs at the 1988 competition in Seoul. Du Pont’s mother, played by Vanessa Redgrave, looks down upon wrestling, instead being a fan of horses. There are obvious mother-son issues.

Channing Tatum plays Mark Schultz, who previously won an Olympic gold medal, but needs to shape up. Du Pont installs Mark on his estate and pins hopes on him. Mark’s brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo), also a wrestler, has an independent streak and doesn’t want to subjugate life with his family to the whims of du Pont. But he does finally come aboard as a coach and protector of his brother.

Mark is under immense pressure from du Pont and begins to show signs of rebellion. Eventually Dave sets terms for Mark to get a guaranteed financial stipend, much to the resentment of Du Pont even though a plan is worked out.

While Tatum and Ruffalo are excellent, the film really belongs to Carrell, who gives a properly weird performance as the wealthy, arrogant, super-patriotic manipulator. It is an unusual role for Carrell and he makes the most of the opportunity.

“Foxcatcher” is a story well-told that builds into a shocking event, and at the end, information is posted on the screen to tell us what happened to the real-life individuals. Some may recall details from headlines at the time, but this dramatization, charged with atmosphere, delivers its own impact. A Sony Classic Pictures release. Reviewed October 19, 2014.


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