Skip to content

‘Foxcatcher’ : Is That Steve Carell In My Nightmares?

by on December 24, 2014

Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to have friends.

Sure, most of us probably don’t try to buy our friends. And most of us probably don’t react as poorly as John du Pont does when our friends go their own way.

I don’t want to be reductive here. A need for friendship is just one of the things that drives John du Pont (Steve Carell) in “Foxcatcher”.* There are so many layers to his character, and they are all so fascinating that I wanted to use this space to try to organize my thoughts about Du Pont, to try to make sense of it all.

*When I talk about du Pont, I’m strictly talking about how he is presented in the movie.still-of-steve-carell-in-foxcatcher-(2014)-large-picture

He’s entitled. Born into a wealthy family, money has always gotten du Pont everything he ever wanted. From train sets to cocaine to actual human beings, money was never an obstacle for him. So naturally, he expects things to go his way.

He’s lonely. Money could never make him friends, real ones at least. As he told Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum), his mother once paid for a child to befriend him when he was younger. To have that seemingly actual friendship exposed as a lie seemed to really screw with his head. But can you blame him? How can you ever trust anyone to really be your friend after that?

He desperately wants to be liked. Not only that, but he wants to know that he is liked. He wants to know that he is appreciated. He seems to make a point to say “you’re welcome” anytime Mark thanks him for his generosity. It’s as if he really wants Mark to know that he is thanking the right person. His sense of entitlement and loneliness seem to be natural precursors to this desperate need to be liked, appreciated and admired.

He’s an idealist. Sure, John du Pont is kind of creepy, but he seems to truly want America to be successful again and bring home Olympic gold medals. He may have some severe athletic deficiencies, but he has a passion for competitive wrestling. If he can’t do it, he wants one of his wrestlers to succeed. But does he really care about “America”, or does he just want to be the one responsible for America’s revitalization?

He wants to have power over people. Du Pont struggled to get people to see things his way his entire life, to make friends, to make his mother proud of him. Naturally, this leads to a need for respect and admiration, to be feared. If he can feel like he has power, his life can feel worthwhile. That’s why he leads Mark around a philanthropic dinner event with the introduction “Have you ever met an Olympic gold medalist?” He wants to own Mark.


Naturally, these motivations and desires begin to make life difficult. And at the point when du Pont most begins to feel his power slipping away, he takes matters into his own hands.

Carell’s chilling performance has really stuck with me almost a week after seeing this movie. I never thought I would be seeing Steve Carell in my nightmares, but man…is this really the same guy?

A Few Stray Thoughts (SLIGHT SPOILERS):

  • I thought this movie was about as good as it could be. When you’re tied to a true story, it can force a narrative direction that may not really work. The film sets up to be a Channing Tatum movie, and after becoming strongly invested in his character, he kind of vanishes for the last half-hour or so. Don’t get me wrong, I’m fascinated by the character of John du Pont (I mean, I just wrote like 500 words about him), but Mark’s arc felt unfinished because of the way things unfolded.
  • The character of Mark Schuldt is set up very well in this movie. It feels a little slow at the start, but the way everything happens (sad, lonely training with a brother who’s better than him, taking $20 to speak at an elementary school, talking about what winning a gold medal for America means to him) informs his decision and willingness to follow a man like John du Pont.
  • I love the look Carell shoots Mark Ruffalo in the scene in the hotel room where Dave Schultz is playing with his children. You can see the disgust in his eyes as he sees a man who has everything du Pont himself has ever wanted, and you can see how little his presence means to Dave. That look alone changed the way I looked at their relationship for the rest of the movie.
  • The lack of music in this film makes everything so creepy and unbelievably eerie.
  • Bennett Miller has become an expert at making sports movies that are not at all about the sport. He seems to have a way into his characters and the deepest, darkest parts of their being.
  • “Most of my friends will call me Eagle, or Golden Eagle.”


What did everybody else think? Has this movie come to a theater near you yet?

Taylor Gaines can be contacted on Twitter @GainesTaylor.

From → Movie Reviews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: