The first time Foxcatcher came on my radar was when I read about it on a Twitter, Mark Ruffalo was mentioning the film and being a fan of his I was keen to find out more. I didn’t know much about the film or the story, so when I heard it was based on real life events and had been adapted from a book of the same name, I just had to get my hands on a copy.
I always take an open-minded approach to books and genuinely didn’t know what to expect. Written by Mark Schultz, it opens with the cold-blooded murder of Dave Schultz, Mark’s older brother. Dave is shot dead by billionaire John du Pont so casually that I was eager to read more.
If you’re thinking the book is going to be instantly about the events leading up to the murder and life immediately after, you may be disappointed. Mark instead goes right back the beginning and talks about his life growing up, moving around from state to state due to his parent’s divorce and how he looked up to his older brother and eventually came to do wrestling. However Mark has written it in such a way that it helps you get not only more of an understanding of Wrestling itself but helps paint a very vivid and honest picture of himself, his older brother and also the dynamic of their relationship.
Despite the brother’s being incredibly close there was also an element of competition between them, which seemed to fuel their passion for wrestling, their love for one another and also spurred them on to the Olympic Gold Medallists they eventually became. You really get a great sense, that despite having so much in common they were also incredibly different, Mark Schultz seems more closed off and quiet, often preferring to be alone whereas Dave seemed more open and a friend to everyone.
The novel gets even more interesting when we’re introduced to John du Pont. A man who was born rich and believed that he was beyond the law in so many ways. The story of how Mark Schultz came to agree to work for du Pont on the Foxcatcher farm is itself quite difficult to read and I could really feel the desperation he was feeling at that time in his life and the abandonment and anger he was feeling towards life and those around him. He genuinely felt that he had nothing else going for him and was at something of a loss.
Du Pont was a wealthy man, who made a habit of collecting people as though they were toys, when John got bored he discarded of them, throwing them to one side and often tarnishing their name and character whilst he was at it. He was a complex man, and there were moments in the book where Mark recalls moments and conversations he shared with the man that made my skin crawl and I could feel a cold swell of dread fill my stomach. The book quickly turns into a gripping page turner.
So when I went to see the film, I felt somewhat apprehensive. However I was blown away by how accurate the entire cast brought the real people to life. Granted the time scale in the film is somewhat disjointed and there were moments where I felt something akin to sympathy for John du Pont, which isn’t an emotion I felt for him at any point during the book. However that aside, the film is a fair adaptation of the book, with Steve Carell giving a career defining performance and with fantastically effortless performances from both Mark Ruffalo and Channing Tatum. Quite surprisingly, Tatum is the only member of cast not to receive any kind of Oscar nod for his performance, an oversight and injustice of his performance to which he brings a subtle intensity.
Foxcatcher is an unflinchingly honest account that is harrowing, heart-breaking and inspiring all at the same time. This is one book you will want to read after seeing the film or vice versa, either way it’s one of the best novels I have read this year.
Foxcatcher is published by the Penguin Group and is available for the Kindle from amazon.co.uk (RRP £7.99) The Print Edition is available in all good bookstores (RRP £7.99)