Foxcatcher by Mark Schultz – A Book Review

Of course, after seeing the mesmerizing film of the same name, I had to go directly to the source material. I’m happy to report that Mark Schultz’s account of his time with John du Pont is a fascinating read that puts a lot of the movie in the proper context.

Let’s be clear, Foxcatcher the film took some artistic liberties as you would expect any movie to do.  However, according to Schultz’s nonfiction writing, most of the movie’s high notes were accurate.  Things were embellished a bit, and the timeline was condensed heavily, but it seems as though the movie truly captured du Pont’s oddity and, to be fair, even Schultz’s.

The first half of the book recounts Schultz’s early life, how he came to wrestle, his life victories, his missteps, and he seems to do so honestly and with humility.  He is the first to admit his intensity made him aloof during competition and practice, and that people often misunderstood his brooding silence.  The film really played up this aspect of the man.  Schultz practically deifies his older brother, and who can blame him?  It sounds like David was every bit as likable and charismatic as the film depicted him, and after meeting such a horrendous end, how can we speak poorly of a surviving brother praising his lost loved one?

The second half of the book is when I became acutely interested.  Of course, this is when du Pont enters the scene.  Schultz clearly hates du Pont, but even so, he did not spout only nasty things about the man.  In fact, I was actually surprised that Schultz remained far more objective concerning du Pont than I would have expected.  He confesses his own errors with du Pont, he laments putting up with as much as he did, and he regrets ever playing a role in David and du Pont meeting.  However, his role was not as great as the movie would suggest, and he certainly wasn’t quite the victim the movie made him out to be.  Schultz in fact did stand up to du Pont and left on his own terms more so than the movie stated.

If you were captivated by the film, I urge you to read the book.  It is a sobering recollection of an already disturbing story, and it offers insight into the only surviving member of the trinity, a man we really did not get to know all that well beyond the surface – Mark Schultz.

Foxcatcher – A Movie Review

My wife and I watched Foxcatcher last night on DVD, and neither of us could look away from the screen.  This movie is haunting, intense, disturbing, and riveting.  Steve Carell is virtually unrecognizable as he plays John du Pont.  I honestly did not think Carell could capably play such a creepy character, such an emotionally devoid human being, yet he did, and I truly think it’s one of the best performances I’ve seen in a movie.

As you may know, it’s loosely based on a true story in which du Pont volunteered his Foxcatcher estate to house and train the US Olympic team.  He befriends Mark and Dave Schultz, two championship wrestlers as they strive to make the Olympics again.  Yet, du Pont’s intentions are not entirely philanthropic, and as the movie progresses, you realize the Schultz’s have accepted the help of a very unsettled man.

While the movie centers upon Olympic-level wrestling, it is absolutely a character driven movie.  There is ample wrestling, but it’s not distracting and, for those who do not appreciate the sport, it only amplifies the overall story – it in no way detracts from it.

Mark Ruffalo plays David Schultz, older brother to Mark Schultz.  Yes, he’s likable as Ruffalo typically is, but not conventionality so.  He loves his little brother, he loves his wife and children, he loves his sport, and du Pont has offered a way for him to provide a stable environment for all of his loves.  Of course, the irony is that he must deal with an unstable man in order to do so.  We identify with David.  We root for him as he does what he has to for his family, and even though we know he shouldn’t deal with du Pont, Ruffalo reflects our own willingness to do what it takes to take care of our loved ones.

Channing Tatum holds his own with Carell and Ruffalo.  His Mark Schultz has little to say, broods a lot, and tends to stare off into nothingness, yet Tatum plays Schultz almost as strange as Carell does du Pont.  Tatum makes Mark seem as though there is rage beneath the silent surface, and we’re never quite sure where Mark stands or what he’s capable of doing.

No matter what your feelings are about Olympic style wrestling, I urge you to watch Foxcatcher.  It simmers throughout, and when tragedy finally strikes, it will break your heart.  It’s absolutely one of the best movies I’ve seen in quite some time and Carell will captivate you with his subtle, ominous performance.