FOXCATCHER (15, 134 mins) Drama/Romance. Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller, Vanessa Redgrave. Director: Bennett Miller.
Released: January 9 (UK & Ireland)
Vast wealth can buy you freedom from the shackles of debt, luxury goods, an aura of power, begrudging respect and thinly veiled jealousy from the people around you.
However, it cannot buy you undying love, unerring loyalty or mastery of Lady Luck and your mortality.
In the 1980s, philanthropist John Eleuthere du Pont attempted to buy sporting glory for America by using his vast fortune to establish a world class wrestling facility at his sprawling Foxcatcher Farm on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
He recruited Olympic champion David Schultz to his stable, which included David’s younger brother and fellow Olympic gold medallist Mark, who lived on the estate to ensure the focus was always on the wrestling.
Team Foxcatcher won numerous competitions.
On January 26, 1996, du Pont shot and killed David and was subsequently convicted of third degree murder.
He died behind bars, 14 years into his sentence.
Bennett Miller, who was deservedly Oscar nominated for Capote, directs this dramatisation of du Pont’s fraught relationship with the Schultz brothers and his steady descent into murderous madness.
The film is distinguished by a superb ensemble cast including a creepily dramatic performance from Steve Carell, replete with facial prosthetics, as the eccentric millionaire who lost everything with the pull of a trigger.
He’s heavily tipped for an Oscar nomination as Best Actor because this marks such a striking departure from lovable, goofball roles in Anchorman, The 40 Year Old Virgin and Evan Almighty.
Wrestling enthusiast John du Pont (Carell) is desperate to win the love and respect of his elderly mother, Jean (Vanessa Redgrave), a successful horse trainer.
So he establishes the training facility and recruits Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) to spearhead his stable of talented athletes.
At first, the relationship between du Pont and Schultz is strong, like a surrogate father and son, but fissures eventually appear.
“You ungrateful ape!” barks du Pont to his brooding protege.
The millionaire hires Schultz’s brother, fellow Olympic champion Dave (Mark Ruffalo), to restore the lustre of the Foxcatcher brand.
Dave moves onto the estate with his wife Nancy (Sienna Miller) and family.
Jealousy, paranoia and sibling rivalry poison personal ties, culminating in a senseless act of violence.
Foxcatcher is a dark and unsettling character study, in which the American dream turns rancid and a mentally unstable man with money becomes a wrecking ball in the lives of unsuspecting bystanders.
Carell is impressive but arguably the more compelling performances come from Tatum and Ruffalo as the siblings corrupted by a millionaire’s insidious influence.
The homoerotic undertow of Du Pont’s fascination with Mark is subtly addressed in a script that doesn’t quite make sense of the complex emotions churning beneath the surface.
Too much is left unsaid and with a running time of 134 minutes, Bennett leaves us with a lot of unanswered questions.