Two years ago a film called Foxcatcher was released. It was based on a true story involving an overly eccentric rich man named John DuPont and the team of wrestlers he created on his estate. It largely focussed on his relationship with wrestler Mark Shultz and the shooting of Mark’s brother Dave Shultz. Rarely have I left a film angrier. Sam was the same, we truly felt robbed of our money and over two hours of our lives. Despite the mass of Oscar nominations it received, the film was awful. The story however intrigued me. So when Team Foxcatcher, a documentary made for Netflix, was released this year I waited for the right mood and time to watch it. This is the true story of how John DuPont went from eccentric millionaire to murderer.
The documentary is done in a fairly common fashion. It is made up of amateur footage and interviews, provided by the people surrounding the events. This may not be the most inventive way to shoot a documentary, but it is a proven method of telling a story in a concise and effective manner. We are told about Dave Shultz’s career and how well respected he was in the wrestling community. Despite his talent Team USA struggled against countries like Russia.This is mainly due to wrestlers not having the funding to wrestle as they get older. Enter John DuPont who opens Foxcatcher Farms, a community of wrestlers who live and train together on the same facility.
After that it focuses on the time frame between 1989 (after Mark left the farm) up to the shooting of Dave and the aftermath in 1996. In this time we see how close the entire community was. We learn about John DuPont’s relationship with the local police as well as his desire to be part of the comradery between the wrestlers. The film does a fantastic job of building up an uneasiness around John, making you wary of his actions despite them appearing generous. It touches on his life prior to this time, however I would have liked a bit more context in to what made him like he is. I understand the desire to keep it focussed to the time of the event, but I think it would have been fascinating to understand the man more.
The storytelling was great in this film, covering several different opinions and angles, not appearing to have an agenda anyway. That’s pretty amazing for a film about a murderer as it’s pretty easy to be biased against a murderer. The director however knows that the audience will think like that anyway so instead just delivers us with facts. What is more fascinating however are the interviews with people who knew Dave and John. The admiration and love they had for Dave as well as the respect and gratefulness they had for John create an interesting dynamic. The documentary is always at its best points when talking to Dave’s wife and kids. Although we can’t hear what the director is asking, it’s clear he has put them at ease enough to properly explore their emotions surrounding the shooting.
One moment in particular with Dave’s son will make you extremely angry, closely followed by a moment with his daughter that will leave a lump in your throat. This documentary is a fascinating story, but it is also an amazing example of human nature. From the forgiving nature of his daughter, to the betrayal of his closest friend as well as the paranoid millionaire who finally loses it. We witness people on a level that only a great tragedy can show us. When a man who has touched so many peoples lives in such a positive way is taken from you, how do you react? What is the correct way to react? And do we have any right to judge? These are some questions I was left asking myself afterwards.
With John however it’s clear cut and dry. He was a deprived, insecure and paranoid man who finally snapped. The aftermath in which he hides in his manor house, unaware of the gravity of what he has done shows that sometimes that kind of money, without the right kind of guidance can be a curse. I knew I was going to watch a film about an interesting story, I didn’t expect such an interesting insight in to the human condition. That surprise alone gave the story more depth and elevated this documentary from just good to actually being great. Once again Netflix delivers. It has some fantastic dramas and comedies, but between Making a Murderer and this, Netflix has shown that they can churn out quality of any kind.