One of those stories where I wonder why anyone wanted to make it. And why Steve Carrell, noted funnyman, wanted this as his debut into serious drama. He’s quite good, but still, this John du Pont character was such a clueless asshole …
I’ve long felt sorry for wrestlers. It’s a noble sport, unlike boxing, where your goal is to hurt your opponent until he can’t stand up. In wrestling, your objective is to overpower your opponent, to immobilize him until he can’t move, not to hurt him. I’ll confess I’ve never been able to really understand what constitutes a take-down, or much of anything else about the point system, but I do enjoy watching Olympic matches.
And then these college boys, these wonderful athletes graduate, and the “professional” world of wrestling consists of steroid freaks pretending to be murderous psychopaths, deliberately making themselves bleed for crowds whose collective IQ is never into the three digits. This movie is about the good part of wrestling, and how a certifiably insane millionaire basically bought the U.S. Olympic team and took them to Seoul. Du Pont had money to burn, a history of never having accomplished diddley-squat, the contempt of his horrible mother for everything he was, and a lifelong fascination with wrestling.
He took a man named Mark Schultz under his wing and, along with a lot of other athletes, quartered them in the large athletic facility he had built at his family’s Foxcatcher Farm. (That’s the kind of family the du Ponts are; they actually ride to the hounds in America!) Mark and his brother Dave were both Olympic gold medalists in Los Angeles. The brothers were very close, but Dave looks to have been the smart one. Du Pont wanted both of them, and eventually he wore Dave down. And then, at some mysterious point, John went completely off the rails and murdered Dave in cold blood. He may very well have been the richest American ever to serve significant time for murder. He died in prison, and good riddance.
Carrell plays him as a very still person, quiet-spoken, with his head perpetually tilted back. The better to look down his nose? I don’t know. But you know from the start that he’s a few hounds short of a fox hunt. It’s a good performance, he was even nominated for an Oscar, but it all seemed a bit pointless to me. Not a story that cried out to be told.