STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie
At home in Canada, Michael J. Fox’s height was always an obstacle until he discovered drama class in high school. His dad supported his Hollywood dream, where, after 3 long years of getting work but not enough to support himself, Fox hit the big time with the double whammy of “Family Ties’ on the small screen and “Back to the Future” on big ones. Still in his late twenties, Fox would go into a spiral with a shocking diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease, something he tried to hide for years before going public. He tells his story in “STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie.”
Laura's Review: B+
Director Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth,” “It Might Get Loud”) takes a dynamic approach in allowing his subject to tell his own story. Alternating direct, close-up interview footage with his subject in his NYC home with seamlessly inventive reconstructions, archival material, TV and film clips and observational footage of Fox with therapists and family, Guggenheim and Fox paint a portrait of a talented guy overcoming multiple hurdles by coming to grips with the left field blow of an incurable medical diagnosis usually reserved for those in their senior years.
Charming, funny and self-deprecating, Fox gives an honest appraisal of his highs and lows, rare moments of pride slipping through with such low key observations of how his improvised ‘P.’ in ‘Alex P. Keaton’ during “Family Ties’” pilot helped seal the deal. He starts off by admitting a ferocious hangover after spending a drunken evening with Woody Harrelson and, in holding his hand up to the light, noticed his pinky finger was ‘auto-animated,’ his words accompanied by beautifully shot, convincing recreations, many of which are revisited in evolutionary fashion.
Guggenheim departs Fox’s building with him as the actor explains how ‘the walking thing freaks people out,’ before taking a spill on the sidewalk. We’ll learn about the additional damage he’s done to himself, smashing his cheekbone, breaking his hand and then his arm, because of frequent falls. Fox’s son Sam will tell him to be careful, something dad seems amused by, claiming to ever be, but his son is onto something – dad just keeps trying to move too fast, still, a predilection Guggenheim accentuates with a montage of clips of the actor running.
That title is a double entendre, of course, pointing out that Fox is still with us while also expressing a desire to quit trembling. After a number of post “Future” franchise movie flops, Fox turned back to TV and found another hit in the late 90’s with ‘Spin City.’ By this time, he was trying to control his body with drugs and while viewers may never have noticed, Guggenheim supplies clips from the show illustrating Fox hiding a trembling hand or having trouble with a facial expression. But Fox had also begun to drown his sorrows until his ever supportive wife Tracy Pollan asked her hungover, disheveled husband one morning if this is who he really wanted to be, sparking his decision to go public and become a hugely successful fund raiser for medical research in the bargain.
There is so much content here, so many fun and fascinating anecdotes, it is a marvel the filmmaker has organized it all into a 95 minute running time. That Guggenheim has done so with such style is icing on the cake and his documentary is all the evidence we need to confirm Fox’s beloved status.
Robin's Review: B
Apple releases "STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie" in select theaters and on Apple TV on 5/12/23.