Archetypes: Film: Review: ‘Foxcatcher’ (2014)

Sony Pictures Classics

Sony Pictures Classics

For many athletes, winning an Olympic gold medal opens countless doors, leading to personal growth, financial security, and a validation that all their hard work has value in a post-Olympics existence. As explored in Foxcatcher, this scenario was not the fate of the Schultz brothers, both wrestling gold medalists in the 1984 Olympics, in Los Angeles.

Directed by Bennett Miller, the movie begins about three years after their medal wins. Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) is contacted by John du Pont (Steve Carell, wearing a gigantic prosthetic nose and suitable makeup to help accentuate his character’s creepy eccentricity), heir to the du Pont fortune.

Du Pont, who fancies himself a patriot, wants Mark to train for the 1988 Olympics as part of Team Foxcatcher, located on the du Pont compound. To Mark, who’s been eking out an existence, the invitation seems like an opportunity. Big brother Dave Schultz (Mark Ruffalo) isn’t so convinced but, in the end, joins his younger brother on the du Pont farm as a coach. Trouble looms.

Mark, who’s awkward, emotionally closed and has the appearance and personality of a cinderblock, is close to and dependent on his older sibling, who’s a father figure. Du Pont, who has mother issues (Vanessa Redgrave makes a brief, riveting appearance), is increasingly peeved that Dave is such an important part of the equation, even though du Pont needs Dave’s coaching services. Adding to this conflict is the fact that du Pont, whose motivations become murkier as he provides drugs and junk food to Mark, is slowly turning into the Underworld Father, seemingly out to destroy the metaphorical son that could bring him Olympics glory.

Foxcatcher’s pervasive Pluto archetype – control, seduction, big money and, above all, power – also needs an acquiescing victim. Watching Mark’s struggle is heartbreaking, as is seeing him pull away from Dave, who meets a tragic end.

The movie’s interludes, which celebrate the intimate and balletic choreography of wrestling, serve as a reminder that grappling with one’s life choices is, in contrast, an often violent and deadly dance with one’s deepest self.

Archetype: Tyrant. Powermonger. Vampire. Father.

Astrology Archetype: ♇ (Pluto)

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