Even if you remember the bizarre news story that inspired it, Bennett Miller's Foxcatcher is likely to be deeply unsettling. Miller has a masterfulway of keeping us off-balance and uneasy, building a gradual sense of doom, whether we know what's coming or not.
In 1987, three years after wrestling brothers Mark and Dave Schultz both won medals in the Olympics, monosyllabic,unemployed Mark (Channing Tatum) is living on ramen when he's invited to visit weirdo billionaire John E. du Pont (Steve Carell) at his massive Pennsylvania estate, called Foxcatcher. Du Pont, sociallyawkward, fabulously rich but friendless, fancies himself a wrestling coach, and he wants to sponsor Mark and Dave's training. Dave (Mark Ruffalo), the savvier brother, is skeptical, but Mark is all for it.
Thus begins a peculiar, often unnervingly funny bromance, complete with a training montage with a musical score that belongs to a falling-in-love montage. Mark is oblivious, and the film makes no overt references, but it's not hard to see why sexually repressed John might want to hang out with strapping young athletes. Mark becomes his pet Olympic medalist prize to show off at parties.
Du Pont can be dull or outrageous, pathetic or humorous, but Carell plays the man at all times as a real person. He loses himself in the role so well that I quickly got past the weirdness of his familiar voice coming from a face drastically altered by makeup and prosthetics to resemble the real du Pont.
Miller (Capote, Moneyball) keeps a quiet, deliberate pace, moving gently but steadily toward the climax. He lets the characters do what they do without making sport of them. The movie is often funny, yet not a comedy; it's disturbing, but not explicitly horror. It's a riveting character study, a non-sensationalist account of a true story that compels our interest even if we know the ending.