A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Foxcatcher is a compelling but disturbing psychological crime drama based on real-life events. There's some brief non-sexual nudity during a wrestling weigh-in, and characters are shown abusing drugs (mostly cocaine, but characters also drink and smoke weed). Guns are brandished and fired, and some wrestling matches get very intense. But most disturbing is what's obviously a dysfunctional relationship between two characters; their mind games played are hard to watch, and younger viewers may find their dynamic uncomfortable and upsetting.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum) won an Olympic medal for wrestling in 1984, but it didn't land him on a cereal box. Instead, he supports himself through small checks earned from speaking engagements at neighborhood schools, never quite able to parlay his success on the mat into a financially sustainable career. No matter: With his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) at his side, Mark is training for another shot at the next Olympics. Dave, who's risen through the ranks as the coach of a college wrestling team, is still his brother's mentor and keeper, training Dave and serving as his sparring partner. Then, billionaire John DuPont (Steve Carell), a wrestling enthusiast, comes a-calling for Mark, offering a state-of-the-art training facility at his estate, FOXCATCHER, where Mark could focus on training for major competitions. Dave is supportive, if cautious -- and when he finally joins his brother, he's disturbed why what appears to be a dysfunctional dynamic between John and Mark. Is wrestling, and Foxcatcher, big enough for the three of them?
Is it any good?
Foxcatcher is a triumph for its three leads. Tatum displays a depth of feeling here that's been unmined in most of his previous undertakings. Carell completely loses himself in his role as DuPont -- and not just because he wears a prosthetic nose, but because he channels a fearsome melancholy and eerie detachment. And Ruffalo, as he does with nearly every role he plays, anchors his performance as Dave Schultz in a masterful realism and deep empathy. Together, under the helm of director Bennett Miller, the trio takes a ripped-from-the headlines story and turns it into a compelling psychological portrait of power and class struggle, with Olympic wrestling as a backdrop.
Miller takes his time to tell the story, using each scene to build on the escalating tension. As it approaches its final, haunting end, you could cut the atmosphere with a spoon. But Foxcatcher unfolds at a remove, which is its singular weakness. Unlike wrestling, which demands a physical closeness that gives it a measure of grace and honesty, allowing opponents no place else to hide their weaknesses, Foxcatcher refuses to go to the mat, diluting its power.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that Foxcatcher is based on real-life events. Does the fact that this stuff actually happened affect your ability to enjoy the movie? Do you think it's all portrayed as it happened? Why might filmmakers change some facts?
What's the movie's take on John DuPont and his interest in the Schultz brothers -- and in wrestling? Do you think he's portrayed fairly?
Talk about the bond between Mark and Dave. What's kept them so close, despite competing in the same sport?
What makes the movie hard to watch? Why are we drawn to entertainment that makes us uncomfortable?
- In theaters: November 14, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: March 3, 2015
- Cast: Steve Carell, Channing Tatum, Mark Ruffalo
- Director: Bennett Miller
- Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 134 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: some drug use and a scene of violence
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