Foxcatcher is shot in an off color frame with always very cloudy skies to symbolize the darkness of the story. John Du Pont finds himself trying to prove something to us throughout the film, and the audience gets a better idea of what he is trying to prove as the movie gets deeper. When Mark shows up to Foxcatcher farms he is quickly informed about the legacy that each member of the Du Pont family holds. The only two Du Pont family members living in the mansion that lies on the Foxcatcher farm estate are John Du Pont and his elderly mother. As Mark walks into the enormous trophy room he sees hundreds of trophies and ribbons highlighting Du Pont's mother's success in horseback riding. While her legacy is now confirmed, John Du Pont's remains unknown. This is where the first theme of the movie begins to be seen. John Du Pont is constantly trying to prove to his mother that he is something that he is not, and his mother is far from amused. While there are many other themes that fall under John's search for power and respect, they all end up leading to his strange actions of "training" the USA Olympic wrestling team to get a gold medal. Towards the beginning of the story, Du Pont takes Mark to a convention where he writes a speech for Mark to say where Mark then states how John Du Pont has been nothing short of a father to him and that he owes all of his success to John. It is hard for the audience to not be puzzled by this because Mark and John barley know each other, and that is one of many signs that point in the direction that says John Du Pont is not the man he comes off to be. Mark is a strange person and he is used to having guidance from his older brother, but since Dave is not yet at Foxcatcher Farms he is vulnerable to fall for Du Pont's manipulative acts. This is shown when John pressures Mark into doing cocaine by saying, "It's just cocaine Mark. It's not going to kill you." Because of Du Pont's wealth he seems like a trustworthy person to Mark, and this is where they begin to bond through the drug addiction. Friendship is another one of the underlying themes in this film and Mark and John make an interesting combination because they both state to each other that they have both never had a real friend in their lives. Du Pont states that he had one friend, but he realized that his mother was paying the person just to hang out with John. After this becomes known, the theme of friendship and wanting to be accepted becomes hard to ignore. Du Pont wants to be accepted so bad that that he is willing to pay any price for it. This is shown when Du Pont is in a wrestling match against another older man and the other man awkwardly falls to the ground letting Du Pont win. After the match, Du Pont's right hand man is shown giving the other wrestler an envelope full of money. John Du Pont knows absolutely nothing about wrestling, but the themes and the film itself have nothing to do with wrestling; it has to do with acceptance and doing absolutely anything to gain it. As the wrestling operation gets deeper and they begin to win trophies, Du Pont sits down with his mother and brags to her about his amazing accomplishments, but she instantly asks if he paid money to reach these accomplishments and questions his actual knowledge of wrestling. But the ultimate search of acceptance from his mother is shown when his mother decides to sit in on a wrestling practice and Du Pont attempts to impress her by showing the team some new moves, but she dismisses herself after it is clear John has no idea what he is talking about. Shortly after this when Du Pont's mother passes away he faces reality that after all these years he was never able to find his place and reach acceptance from his mother, and that is when things spiral. When Mark and Dave catch on to John's lack of knowledge of wrestling and how this is just an act for his documentary he is making, things get awkward. But before things get too weird, John Du Pont murders Dave which proves the theme of searching for acceptance to be true because John will do absolutely whatever it takes to be seen as heroic. However, John Du Pont is not the only one that themes are based around in this film. The relationship between the two brothers is not only admirable, but also undeniably complex. While it is never confirmed that Mark has mental health issues, it is fair to say that he is a very unique person. That is where his older brother comes in and guides Mark to show the relationship that John Du Pont has been longing for. Although, tensions rise when Dave comes to Foxcatcher because Mark feels like he is going to be overshadowed by his brother yet again. But when things get hectic and Du Pont can't control them, that's when you see the brothers show what a real friendship is as they stick together until the end. With all of that being said, it is apparent that one of the bigger pictures in the film is that money cannot buy you happiness or respect. All of the other themes lead to this message which was displayed flawlessly by Miller. Du Pont spends a ridiculous amount of money trying to be liked, respected, and trying to prove to his mom that he is somebody. Yet, Du Pont ends up proving that he is nothing but an imposter.
The way Miller displays these themes throughout the film is so brilliant that it makes watching the film up to three times necessary. It may take the audience up until the last frame to realize that John Du Pont has been a fraud the whole time, and when the audience realizes that they may have a feeling of self-disappointment for not spotting any of this from the beginning. One thing that viewers may notice is that the dialogue is dry, and by doing this it gives the audience a wider chance for interpretation on character development and themes. The theme of friendship is perfectly displayed through Mark because he has one friendship with his brother that is so authentic and well balanced that the audience is already in love with Dave by the time they are half way through the movie. On the other hand, the friendship between John and Mark is so strange and watered down that it gives the perfect vibe for the audience to pick up on what is actually going on if they watch closely. As for the theme of acceptance, Miller purposely makes Du Pont's mother a distant and mysterious character to symbolize how she is not prominently in John's life despite being his own mother. Miller makes his themes shine also by spotlighting how characters react to certain situations. For example, when John's mother dies it shows all of the time he spent trying to gain his mother's approval was lost and John going on a downward spiral showed his lack of self-respect and morality. Another example would be when Dave refuses to lie on camera by saying that John was a brother and mentor to him and John reacts by murdering him.
Foxcatcher is an unbelievable film that is carried by its superb acting and veteran directing by Miller. Key themes that are recognizable throughout the film involve acceptance, friendship, and the power of money. Miller does a good job of tying all of these themes together and while giving the audience a film that will leave you speechless once the credits begin to roll after the final scene. Themes and authenticity often get lost when film makers try and capture a true story, but this piece displays a steady balance of both.