Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie sets its tone in the opening moments. Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim asks Fox how he does not tell his story as a sad one about an actor who had it all but was forced to give it up. Fox quips that story would be boring, letting everyone immediately know this is a person and documentary that is filled with wit and determination.
In place of talking heads, Guggenheim places Fox front and center. This provides an intimacy to Still that similar documentaries can have trouble conveying. The two are very candid with Guggenheim asking questions about everything and the actor providing open and honest answers. This includes covering Fox’s alcoholism and his failures as a husband and father.
Fox looks back on his past as the “boy prince of Hollywood” fondly, but also realizes that it was not really him. He was caught up in the moment and playing a part. When he became the hottest actor on the planet, he admittedly became a “dick”. He met Tracy Pollan while shooting Family Ties, and she brought him back down to Earth. They were married shortly after.
Still also gives a peek into the family life of Fox and it is very touching to see. He and Tracy are clearly still very much in love and their interactions are a highlight of the film. A great moment is when Fox shows a framed picture of Tracy autographed to someone else he bought years ago. Fox seems to be happiest when he is talking about his wife and kids.
Guggenheim does a great job of melding modern interviews with clips from throughout Fox’s career. It is as if Fox is providing commentary to the footage. In a neat touch, Fox provides almost all of the voices and narration. Even better are the constant scenes of Fox running. As the Canadian star mentions, he was always in motion even before he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
It is impossible to make a documentary about Michael J. Fox without discussing the disease that slowed down his career. Still and Fox never downplay Parkinson’s – quite the opposite, as Fox makes it clear that it is an unavoidable part of his everyday life. He talks about how accidents cannot be waved away with a simple “Be careful!” The film also shows the therapy Fox goes through.
But, he also does not allow himself to be defined by it. He always has a one-liner ready (early in the film, he falls down and tells a concerned passerby, “Nice to meet you. You knocked me off my feet!”) and takes a realistic view on life.. It is this charm and sense of worth that makes Still succeed. It is not about how Parkinson’s disease changed Fox’s life, but is just a part of his larger story.
The Sundance Film Festival takes place from January 19 -29. Full lineup can be found HERE
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