Foxcatcher (2014)

Film and Plot Synopsis

When wealthy John du Pont invites Olympic wrestler Mark Schultz to move to his estate and help form a wrestling team for the 1988 Olympics, Mark sees a way to step out of the shadow of his charismatic brother, Dave. However, du Pont begins to lead Mark down a dark road, causing the athlete’s self-esteem to slip. Meanwhile, du Pont becomes fixated on bringing Dave into the fold, eventually propelling all three toward an unforeseen tragedy.

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‘Foxcatcher’ Movie Summary

The summary below contains spoilers.
Foxcatcher (2014)In 1987, Olympic wrestling champion Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is contacted by philanthropist and wrestling enthusiast John E. du Pont (Steve Carell), the heir to the du Pont family fortune. John arranges for Mark to be flown up to his estate in Pennsylvania where John has built his own private wrestling training facility. John invites Mark to join his wrestling team, Team Foxcatcher, so that he can train for the World Championships. Mark joins the team and even attempts to recruit his brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo). Mark and Dave have a somewhat strained relationship as Mark feels overshadowed by his older brother even though they both have Olympic gold medals. Dave declines John’s offer citing his commitment to his family. Mark still takes John’s offer and moves into one of John’s houses on the du Pont estate.

Mark excels with Team Foxcatcher due to the rigorous training with his teammates and the financial support of John. Mark wins a Gold Medal at the 1987 World Wrestling Championships. Mark and John sing each other’s praises and the two eventually become friends. John introduces Mark to cocaine while they are in route to a banquet to celebrate John. Soon, Mark is using cocaine on a regular basis. John confesses his difficulty in making friends and how his mother, Jean du Pont (Vanessa Redgrave) used to pay people to be his friends. John also seeks the approval of his mother who sees wrestling as a low sport. She does not like to see her son being low.

One morning, John finds Mark and the team watching a mixed martial arts tournament on television rather than training. John is angered at Mark’s alteration to the training program and slaps him in the face in front of the teammates. John also states that he will get Dave to be a part of the program no matter what the cost. He insists that Mark work out his differences with his brother so John can make that happen.

John has someone approach Dave again, and this time Dave accepts the offer to join Team Foxcatcher. Mark is hurt and disappointed with being replaced by Dave and decides to train on his own without the assistance of either John or Dave. On one occasion, John awkwardly coaches the team while his mother looks on. Dave and the other wrestlers give his speech passing interest while Mark simply walks out. Jean leaves in disgust with her son’s feigned leadership, and John is bothered by the lack of his mother’s approval.

Mark performs poorly at the 1988 Olympic Trials. He loses his first match due to his lack of focus and his drug use. Mark destroys his hotel room and goes on an eating binge due to his frustration and anger. Dave finds him in his room with the food and takes control of his brother. Dave gets Mark onto an exercise bike in a sweat suit to get him to drop the necessary weight for his weigh in. Dave prevents John from talking to Mark while he is working out, knowing that John’s presence upsets Mark. Mark wins his match the next day and makes the Olympic team. Dave notices that du Pont is absent during the match, but learns from du Pont’s body man that Jean du Pont passed away and John returned home.

After the trials, Mark asks Dave to leave and go to Utah to train for the Olympics with him. Dave declines and says that he wants to make a life for his family and himself in Pennsylvania. However, he does help negotiate Mark’s departure from the du Pont estate with John and his lawyer. John agrees to fund Mark’s training through the Olympics but he must be allowed to sit in Mark’s corner during the Olympics.

At the Olympics, Mark performs poorly and loses his matches. Mark immediately leaves Team Foxcatcher right after the Olympics. Dave continues to live on the estate and train with the Foxcatcher Team as part of his negotiation with John for Mark’s continued financing.

John begins to isolate himself from everyone. He watches a documentary about Team Foxcatcher which ends with Mark complimenting him at ceremony where John introduced Mark to cocaine. John calls his bodyguard and they drive to Dave’s house. Dave is working on a car in the driveway as John pulls up. Dave walks to the car and John shoots him three times, at least once in the chest. Dave’s wife, Nancy (Sienna Miller), runs to her husband as John drives away. She holds Dave in her arms as he dies. John is arrested at his home a short time later. The film ends with Mark competing in an UFC match with the crowd cheering “USA”.

The post script of the film states that Dave was inducted into the Wrestling Hall of Fame posthumously. Further, Mark never competed as a wrestler after 1987 and moved to Oregon where he holds wrestling clinics. Finally, John died in prison in 2010.

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Sony Pictures Classics released Foxcatcher on January 16, 2015. Bennett Miller directed the film starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, and Mark Ruffalo.

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