The situation surrounding American wrestling impresario John du Pont and his recruitment and hiring of Olympic wrestling champion brothers Mark and Dave Schultz started as curious and ended as tragic, something the people behind this gloomy film is more than happy to wallow in. The story starts in 1987, three years after the Schultz brothers won their Olympic gold medal, with younger brother Mark feeling somewhat disillusioned with the World Championships coming up. He's taken in by millionaire du Pont, played with a tremendous focus on exteriors and extravaganza by Steve Carell, and made the figurehead for his wrestling team Foxcatcher.
Without disclosing much more of the story, it's worth mentioning that it is constantly engrossing and never dull, something Bennett Miller somehow manages to make it through his ill-focused, self-indulgent direction. The film is more interested in characterizations than characters, and – much like du Pont himself – sacrifices the sporting and human side of things for an perpetual hunt for controversy. John du Pont may have been eccentric and moody, and Mark Schultz may have been simple-minded and reserved, but surely they didn't wear those labels in their faces at all times.
Mark Ruffalo's Dave Schultz is the only real human being in this film, but he's made into a secondary character, which is rather surprising for those who know how this story ends. Unfortunately, this is just one of several examples of how the filmmakers try to bend this film into a shape that doesn't quite fit, something which culminates when the pivotal scene is played out with only a pretence of accuracy, by suggesting that du Pont's defining act came as a direct consequence of the failure at the 1988 Olympics. This lacking causality is only one of Foxcatcher's problems, however. The hollow, emblematic performances by Carell and Tatum, or the film's one-note mood are others.