Foxcatcher: The Truth about the American Dream


As I read the title cards after the very climatic ending of Foxcatcher, one single thought crossed my mind: interesting. What an interesting film.

Throughout the film, we know something unexpected will happen, conveniently right at the end and the foreshadowing in Foxcatcher is done very well. It’s in a way that makes us feel uncomfortable and makes us question every character because once we have a hold on someone’s personality, they change within the next scene. The only one that stays static is wrestling sponsor John du Pont (Steve Carrel). But he’s not static in the way where we know why he acts the way he does, but because his actions are strange from beginning to end. The most peculiar thing about du Pont, however, is not his weird behavior or sudden coke addiction we learn about halfway through the movie, but in his relationships. His mother is in a handful of scenes, but the idea of her is embedded everywhere and I question whether du Pont wants his mother’s approval or is intentionally trying to give her nightmares. Also embedded everywhere is du Pont’s fear of women. Whenever his mother enters a room, du Pont watches from afar, making sure a barrier is always between them. Perhaps this is just backlash after being rejected by her for so long, but what I see most of the time is du Pont ridiculing her and keeping an odd distance whenever she is around.

The only other woman in the film is Nancy Schultz ( Sienna Miller) who is not interested in du Pont, his money, success, or plans for the Foxcather Olympic wrestling team. All star wrestler Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) and his sister-in-law even get into an argument regarding her aloof behavior towards du Pont, who ends up leaving the room once Nancy says a meek hello from the hotel bed and turns her attention elsewhere. Although du Pont never says anything negative or degrading about Nancy, he ignores her and does not respect the fact that Mark’s brother David ( Mark Ruffalo) won’t be joining the team because he does not want to uproot his wife and family. Nancy may disregard du Pont, but he does the exact same to her because in his world women are an untouchable, jeopardizing part of life. In fact, he acts the same towards Nancy as he does with his own mother: keeps his distance and often ends up walking away or watches her from across the scene. Why do you think there are so few women in the film? They don’t belong in the story about du Pont, but linger around the outside proving just how paranoid and afraid he is that they may recognize how little of a man he feels.

To me, du Pont not only fears women, but fears not representing one of the most manly traits associated with males: fatherhood. Mark has a tainted childhood and idea of fatherhood ever since his parents’ divorce—but what’s du Pont’s excuse? Why is he infatuated with being a father, a good father for that matter, and making sure that label is given at any opportune moment? He’s obsessed with leading Mark to success and obsessed with being an iconic leader of America. And it is clear what the film eventually tries to say about this country, which like du Pont, is obsessed with sports and guns. We are supposed to have hope in the Schultz brothers and see the Olympics as this beacon for Mark especially. Where the event is supposed to bring the brothers and America together, somehow weapons get in the way and are placed as massive symbols throughout the film. When du Pont wants a machine gun and throws a hissy fit and doesn’t get his way, we are left wondering why he wants it so badly in the first place. Another moment like this occurs when du Pont walks slowly into wrestling practice with a handgun and fires it off. A few men flinch, but sadly the others don’t find this behavior abnormal or alarming. Society has become used to weapons being used recreationally and the film has successfully paired the idea of America with weapons and violence.

The pieces all fit together in the end. The infatuation with guns isn’t just another one of du Pont’s odd traits; however, these messages aren’t hammered over our heads either. Instead the film has a quiet mood, yet we are waiting for this big moment that makes sense of everything. We get that moment eventually, but reflect on the meaning of this true story after the film ends and we recognize all the signs that point to catastrophe.

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