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Film / Foxcatcher

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Foxcatcher is a 2014 drama film directed by Bennett Miller and starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo. It tells the true story of the twisted relationship between up-and-coming Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz (Tatum) and reclusive billionaire John Du Pont (Carell), and how the latter's training and sponsorship helped give Shultz a shot at the gold. Not all is well, however, thanks to the shadow of Mark's older brother Dave (Ruffalo), an Olympic champion in his own right, who eventually joins Du Pont's coaching staff. The tension that results eventually leads the schizophrenic Du Pont to murder.

It played on the North American festival circuit before opening in the U.S. on November 14. The trailer can be seen here.

Tropes Seen in Foxcatcher Include

  • Actor Allusion:
    • There's a scene where Mark gets annoyed at Nancy, which is not the first film where Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller have been at odds.
    • Sienna Miller has also played the wife of a man who got shot in real life in American Sniper.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: If John du Pont wanted both brothers all along, why didn't he just call Dave and make him an offer at the outset? In Real Life, du Pont called Dave first, but the film version heightens Mark's disillusionment.
  • Always Someone Better: A bonding theme of Mark and John, both of whom are constantly overshadowed by their brother and mother, respectively. Early in the film Mark has a budget motivational speaker gig that he only got because Dave turned it down. The school secretary takes a humiliating amount of time before she'll make the check out to Mark.
  • As Himself: David 'Doc' Bennett who actually shot the documentaries based on John Du Pont plays himself in the movie.
  • Based on a True Story
  • Central Theme: How The American Dream is all but dead, masculinity is inherently dangerous and how the rich will always control the poor.
  • Creepy Monotone: Du Pont speaks very monotonously and it early on hints that he's not quite right.
  • Depraved Homosexual: It's implied that Du Pont has some kind of attraction to Mark, given that the latter is frequently shirtless around him.
  • Downer Ending: Our three central characters all end up frayed and/or destroyed. In the last 10 minutes, John shoots and kills Dave while the latter's wife watches and is arrested and sent to prison (where he remained until his death). Meanwhile, Mark never did compete in the Olympics again, though he does win his MMA fight in the end, and at least manages to survive his experiences somewhat intact, if damaged. Then again, he still did lose both his brother and his former mentor, each of whom were established as his only friends up until that point.
  • Drugs Are Bad: After joining up with Du Pont, Mark is introduced to cocaine, and we see that he continues to use it several months into his training. This occurs at the same time that he's at his most distant with his brother. He appears to kick the habit shortly after Dave helps him to get focused on training again.
  • Eagleland: John claims that Foxcatcher is meant to help America soar again, right at a time when it was in conflict with the Soviet Union.
  • Eccentric Millionaire: John du Pont seems like one of these at first, though given his mental illness, this trope ends up getting played in a lot darker fashion than usual.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: When Mark tells John that "You can't buy Dave," John takes a few seconds to process this concept before saying simply, "Huh." (Subverted in that John eventually does buy Dave, at least on a professional level.)
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: After winning a gold medal in the World Wrestling Championships, Mark's hair has grown out a little and he's bleached it blond. When Du Pont brings Dave on board, Mark cuts his hair back to a buzzcut in an Important Haircut. In the Distant Finale, his hair is now completely shaved bald.
  • Facial Dialogue: There are many scenes with minimal or no dialogue, largely because of the characters' complicated emotional states. The scene in which Dave struggles to believably describe John as a "mentor" while being filmed for a documentary is a stand-out moment, as is John viewing the documentary sometime later and staring wordlessly into space for a while before summoning his driver to take him to Dave's home, where he then murders him.
  • Foregone Conclusion: For many, one of the primary selling points of the film in synopsis is the fact that John du Pont kills David Schultz in the finale.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Scenes showing John's fetish for guns are sprinkled throughout the movie.
    • The first scene showing dissension between John and Mark has the former interrupting the latter watching MMA. Mark becomes an MMA fighter after the death of his brother.
  • Friendless Background: Another initial source of kinship between Mark and John. John points out early in their partnership that he only had one friend growing up, and it turned out that that person had been paid to do so by his mother. Likewise, Mark notes that his brother was the only person he could ever turn to as a friend. This is supported early on in the film, with Mark dedicating little of his time to social activities, instead speaking at events or training for the next tournament, whereas Dave affably engages with his business partners and enjoys spending time with his wife and kids.
  • Idle Rich: The Du Pont family.
  • Insistent Terminology: "Ornithologist, philatelist, philanthropist."
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Du Pont was this for all intents and purposes. He only had one friend, who he later discovered was paid by his mother.
  • Make Sure He's Dead: John shoots Dave three times to certify this. The latter two while Dave is crawling on the ground.
  • Manly Tears: Averted. Mark has a breakdown in his hotel room and sobs uncontrollably, complete with spittle and mucous.
  • Promotion to Parent: Mark implies that Dave was essentially this to him after their parents divorced when the former was only 2 years old. It's shown in their interactions together, particularly whenever Dave has to calm Mark down whenever he gets upset.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: John is more or less an overgrown child. His motivation of becoming Mark's coach is to win his mother's approval and prove his manhood. This is underscored by a conversation he has with his mother at one point over a beloved toy-train set.
  • Rated M for Manly: Masculinity is explored and picked apart throughout the movie. John's obsession with wrestling and in particular the Schultz Brothers is portrayed as twisted and unsettling, while Mark having to adhere to this lifestyle leaves him with a deep-seated inferiority complex.
  • Shirtless Scene: In addition to the shirtlessness involved in wrestling, the film takes a few extra opportunities to gaze upon bare Tatum torso, such as when John rouses Mark from his bed on the first night of his employment.
  • Shrine to Self: John's trying to build one of these, clearly, between branding everything with "Foxcatcher", clearing space in the trophy room for the wrestling prizes and forcing the team to record absurd testimonials to his greatness.
  • Sinister Schnoz: Carell wears a prosthetic nose as the manipulative Du Pont.
  • Throwing the Fight: It's implied that this is how John wins the one wrestling event he competes in, as Mark spots an envelope being passed to the loser.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Du Pont, constantly wishing for the approval of his mother.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: A dramatic example. In order to impress his mother, John attempts to show his team (full of Olympic-level wrestlers) some extremely basic moves, making it clear he has no idea what he's doing.
  • Wham Shot: John pulling a gun out on Dave.
  • Younger Than They Look: Dave Schultz was only 30 when he moved to Foxcatcher, but was already balding and sported a full beard. Thus the fact that Mark Ruffalo is 15 years older than his character isn't that conspicuous.