• Three films into his career (Capote, Moneyball), Bennett Miller seems incapable of making anything less than a meticulously crafted character study. Foxcather (also based on a true story, and also, like Moneyball, is about the sphere surrounding athletics) explores the tragic events surrounding John du Pont (a horrifying Steve Carell) and the wrestling Shultz brothers- Mark (Channing Tatum) and David (Mark Ruffalo).
  • Ruffalo and Tatum’s authentic performances were paved by practice and study. I remember the story in 2014 of Tatum getting his eardrum popped while wrestling in preparation for the role. He has cauliflower ear, Ruffalo masters the unique posture and movements of a man who has been wrestling for most of his life. Carell shows off his acting range- this is an important film for his career.

The story of the wealth divide in America (the divide is everywhere but here du Pont is draped in the flag) is told so powerfully—yet also tastefully subtle and understated. The film opens with Mark Schultz living at the poverty line- and he is an Olympian- while John du Pont— a man that has done nothing except for being born into one of the wealthiest families in America- has everything.

  • Bunuel would meet the absurdity of John du Pont’s character with comedy.
  • Miller uses “This Land is Your Land”- the American folk song.
  • It is almost all subtext- not insulting E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman who wrote Foxcatcher– but the film is all about glances from the actors, slaps on the back, hands on the shoulders of the men in this circle
  • A frame within a frame at the elementary school where a not-so-bright (“$25,000 – I just picked the highest number I could think of in my head.”) Mark Schultz gets $20—then Miller cuts to du Pont’s mansion in the next scene.

At the 21-minute mark Miller holds on Tatum’s Mark facing the window in a handsome cinematic painting

  • “The Big house is off limits”. John du Pont’s mother (played by a perfectly cast Vanessa Redgrave- who has never had a problem oozing wealth and arrogance) collects and breeds horses- “world class animals”. John du Pont is trying to collect wrestlers.
  • I think it is ok to laugh at times- it is hard to watch a comedian like Carell (even buried in makeup and prosthetics) say “Most of my friends call me ‘eagle’ or ‘golden eagle’” and not laugh even if he underplays the hell out of it. John du Pont is a ghoul—filled with nothing (certainly not talent for anything) but contempt, regressed homosexuality, a troubling mother complex.

Miller also uses the lighting panels over the wrestling mats throughout the film to fantastic effect- both spotlighting the characters and capturing them in handsome compositions…

…but also making for a strong background as the camera is at a long enough distance and a low enough angle to enjoy the ceiling lighting as mise-en-scene.

  • Recommend / Highly Recommend border