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March 30th, 2017

Max’s View

Foxcatcher
**

One of the greatest accomplishments of the Revolutionary War is that it gave the founding fathers the opportunity to abolish titles of nobility.

Through the very warfare that freed it, however, America put itself under the thumb of a new nobility.

Not long after independence, an industrious French immigrant named Eleuthere Irenee du Pont founded a manufacturing plant near Wilmington, DE specializing in explosives. DuPont became the leading producer of gunpowder for the United States military. More than half of the gunpowder used by the Union Army in the Civil War was sold by DuPont.

The DuPonts amassed a vast fortune. And they made sure to keep the money in the family with a unique combination of nepotism, seclusion, and inbreeding.

The DuPonts became a dynasty as rich, eccentric, and powerful as any English nobles.

The overrated drama “Foxcatcher” tells the disturbing story of super rich felon John DuPont (Steve Carell).

In the mid 1980s, 50-ish John DuPont had done little with his life apart from publish a few books about birdwatching. Inspired by a love for America and a futile drive to impress his mother, DuPont began to invest heavily in Olympic training.

DuPont built a training facility on his family’s country estate in Valley Forge, PA. He handpicked star wresting brothers Mark and David Schultz (Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo) to lead his ambitious quest for gold at the 1988 Olympics.

According to director Bennett Miller (“Capote,” “Moneyball”) John DuPont’s relationship with Mark Schultz was a little fatherly, and a little sexual, and entirely creepy.

The closest thing to a three dimensional character in “Foxcatcher” is John DuPont. Steve Carell’s DuPont is a portrait of emotional isolation and unquenched desires.

There’s a telling scene where a visibly drunk DuPont begins grappling with the guys on his team. The wrestlers let him win, cheer him on, and begin chanting his name.

DuPont wanted friendship and a physical connection. Instead he got empty applause from paid sycophants. The film helps you understand and even sympathize with the dreadful loneliness of the super rich.

The characters of Mark and David Schultz aren’t nearly as interesting. It’s as if Channing Tatum went to the set every morning and asked Bennett Miller what his motivation is today. And every morning, Miller replied: “look super buff, angry, and a little confused. Just like yesterday.”

Like in “Capote,” Miller only subtly alludes to his lead character’s homosexuality. I think it’s sad that Miller feels perfectly comfortable showing us violent gunplay but uncomfortable showing us even a hint of real complex human sexuality. I guess that’s American cinema in a nutshell.

Even though the movie is lacking, “Foxcatcher” does give us a glimpse into the life of America’s noblemen. And a warning to stay the heck away from them.

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