Film Review: Foxcatcher, John du Pont, Gay Angle
I disliked this film…Foxcatcher…so much I’m making this review a stand alone post so I can just get it out of the way. This is just for me to vent. I truly don’t like reviewing anything with this tone, but in this case I just couldn’t do anything else. And I think that’s because there’s a passive aggressive homophobia hidden very deeply, one I can’t even comment on because it was done in such a clever, obtuse way.
When I first heard about the film, Foxcatcher, I posted about it here. I added links to that post with information about John du Pont allegedly being gay, and I talked about how I remembered the murder of David Schultz from a local POV because I live in Bucks County, PA. You can go back and read all that. I’m not going to repeat it again in this post.
First, Foxcatcher is one reason why I hate to waste my time going to theaters anymore. I wouldn’t have been thrilled seeing this in a hot cramped theater, and frankly, I’m not too thrilled about wasting five dollars on the rental. E-books can be returned for up to five days on Amazon, but I can’t get a refund on a film I thought was a waste of time. There’s something ironic and unfair about that and I’d like to know who in the film industry made up those no-refund rules and how they are allowed to get away with it when book publishers can’t.
I want my money back.
In any event, in spite of all the gay allegations that surrounded the unusual life of John du Pont, none of it was mentioned in Foxcatcher. There were hints, but if you blink you’ll miss them. So if you think you might even get a little speculation on the gay angle, you’re in for a huge disappointment. Instead, they portrayed John du Pont as weird, quirky, and absolutely obsessed with the game of wrestling. They insinuated he had issues with his mother, with respect to his own inadequacies, and that he carried baggage that dated back to childhood (all speculation). However, even these aspects of the film were toned down so they could concentrate mostly on long, elaborated wrestling scenes that added nothing significant to the characters or the film…unless you happen to be a huge wrestling fan and want those details. And I had to wonder why, in the name of all that is good, was any part of this film nominated for an Oscar.
As for characterization, think Mommie Dearest and the exaggerated way they portrayed Joan Crawford, which is how that film went on to be become campy cult classic. Although I don’t think that will happen with Foxcatcher, even the nose they gave John du Pont made me want to smile at certain points in the film. And trust me, there’s not much to smile about with this film.
I know the film was set in Newtown Square, PA because that’s what it said, and that’s where John du Pont lived. However, I didn’t get a feel for the setting even slightly and for all it mattered it could have been anywhere else in the USA. But I think the oddest part for me was that John du Pont allegedly had no one close to him, which is why he befriended Mark Schultz in the first place. And yet we have du Pont flying to huge events to give speeches as if he didn’t have one single insecurity in the world. Now I know that could happen, but at least give a slight explanation and a hint of the kind of man he was. After watching this film, I know nothing more about him from what I read and heard about in the news at the time of the murder.
I’m not going to drag this out for long. There were a few scenes where du Pont actually did roll around on the mat with a few of the wrestlers, but nothing that would indicate he felt anything sexual toward them. And I found that hard to believe then, and I still find it hard to believe now. If there was a cover up this film only perpetuates it even more. If there wasn’t, I’m not sure there was a need to make a film at all. That’s the biggest flaw of the entire thing for me. Why bother? It was a tragic event that took one life and ruined others. But I’m not sure it warranted being retold all over again. So that critics who knew so little about the back story could give this film such stellar reviews?
Here’s a link to an article that mentions 11 things about Foxcatcher that were not accurate. Most were new to me when I first read them, so I’m still learning things about this story…even if I learned nothing from the film.
In reality, this never happened. In fact, Mrs du Pont was dead before John ever started Foxcatcher. She died in 1988 and only then did John act to redevelop the 440-acre Liseter Hall Farm in Newtown Square as an elite level wrestling facility. He called this new camp “Foxcatcher” after his father’s old racing stable.
And here’s the gay part…that was never mentioned:
The film never looks properly at rumours of John du Pont being gay. It does imply that Mark and John may have had a homosexual relationship, but that’s so ridiculous that it’s almost laughable.
The film is very misleading in this portrayal. Mark was not gay and barely had any sort of relationship with du Pont. However, Dave Metlzer does write in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter that “The belief is that there was a homosexual relationship with Du Pont and a wrestler, but not Mark.”
The film therefore covers up what could have been an interesting narrative with a wholly unbelievable story about Mark Schultz.
I don’t believe for a moment Mark was gay or that he had any intimate relationship with du Pont. I do believe there was more cover up and the story goes much deeper than we’ll ever know. But once again, why bother making a movie about a cover up unless something new is going to be disclosed? Or, center the film on the cover up. Now that would have been interesting.
And I want my money back.