Tuesday, January 13, 2015
Because John du Pont was born in Philadelphia, attended The University of Pennsylvania, had funded a wrestling program at Villanova University, and Foxcatcher Farms was located only a stone's throw away in Delaware County, this news story was pretty big here in Philly back in 1996; yet I have to admit, I couldn't remember a single detail going in to see the movie Foxcatcher.
Steve Carell plays the wealthy, eccentric, oddball, murderer John du Pont with perhaps a little too much characterization. Everyone's been praising Carell for losing himself in a dramatic roll; but for me, the transformative hair, prosthetic nose, extensive makeup, small teeth and overly stiff upward tilt of the head, is all a bit distracting. I think it should've been cast with someone more naturally weird and unattractive. It would have been a perfect role for the sadly deceased Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Foxcatcher director Bennett Miller (Capote, Moneyball) allows for some artistic license in the film's time line. For instance - midpoint in the movie John du Pont turns on Mark Schultz who'd been taking the lead coaching the wrestling team, under John, at the Foxcatcher wrestling facility. John slaps him in front of the team and tells Mark he wants his brother Dave to come take over and that he'll get him at any price. In reality, Mark and John du Pont's patriarchal relationship does fall apart before the 1988 Olympic games in Seoul, but Dave didn't come to the estate until after Mark left.
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A major element in the movie is John's distant relationship with his mother Jean du Pont (Vanessa Redgrave). He desperately seeks her approval, and she is more than withholding and domineering in an oblique manner. Therefore, the movie gives the impression the name of the family estate, Foxcatcher was named by Jean, an avid horse breeder; implying the old, upper crust pastime of foxhunting was the inspiration. Not so, in reality, the estate was called Liseter Hall Farm until John's mother passed in 1988.
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What Foxcatcher gets right is the relationship dynamics. The love Mark has for his brother David despite feeling resentment at being considered 2nd best. The infatuation du Pont has with both men, but particularly his creepy seduction of Mark - taking him in under his wing only to let him fall.
For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Matthew 16:26
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