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Sundance Film Festival Review – ‘STILL: A Michael J. Fox’ is a Stirring and Creative Portrait of the Actor

Michael J. Fox was an incredibly popular actor in the 1980s, winning Emmy Awards for the sitcom Family Ties and starring in the science fiction film Back to the Future. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease the next decade at a very young age, something he kept hidden from the world for several years. Since then, he has taken on a number of smaller roles, like on TV series such as The Good Wife and Curb Your Enthusiasm, that incorporate his disability. The new documentary STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie looks at the actor when he’s not in front of the camera, providing a startlingly honest and revealing window into his life.

Fox serves as the narrator for the film, frequently reading excerpts from his book and explaining the course of his career. His short stature is a frequent source of humor, and his involvement with the drama club because of all the girls who were apparently in it gives away to a breakthrough role that eventually takes him to Hollywood. Living in the slums of Beverly Hills, as Fox puts it, in a microscopic apartment with just one sink for both hygienic and cooking purposes, is a worrisome stepping stone to a meteoric rise to star with his successful TV gig, which he reveals almost didn’t happen at all.

There is a wealth of footage that exists from the sets of projects that Fox has worked on, particularly Family Ties, that shows what the actor was like in his younger days. Those are combined with scenes from Fox’s many works that happen to be quite applicable to and illustrative of what he has been through in his own life, like keeping a secret from everyone and working two jobs that are leaving him barely able to make sense of who and where he is. It’s incredible how appropriate much of it feels, and there are additional re-enactments that help to make this into a chronological biography.

What is most stirring about this documentary is not a look back at Fox’s path to fame but checking in with him now, three decades after his diagnosis. He is remarkably vulnerable and open with director Davis Guggenheim, who interviews him as he frequently needs to pause or has trouble saying exactly what he intends. But his persistence and acceptance of his situation defines who he is, and it’s heartwarming to see the opportunities he finds for humor, like when he falls right after meeting a random woman on the street, calling out to her, “Nice to meet you! You knocked me off my feet!”

It’s also nice to get a peek into the dynamic Fox has with his family members. Hearing about how he first met his wife, Tracy Pollan, is both hilarious and endearing, and it’s affirming to know that one Hollywood marriage has weathered considerable difficulty yet remains strong. Fox’s flaws are not glossed over, and he acknowledges and owns his irresponsible behavior as a young star. He’s also aware of his current state, which leads to amusing conversations with his adult children about how he intends to respond to their text messages yet consistently fails to do so for a variety of reasons.

Fox’s story is in good hands with Oscar-winning documentarian Guggenheim, best known for eye-opening nonfiction films like An Inconvenient Truth and Waiting for Superman. His latest subject is much more intimate, but he knows how to handle the interview process and to assemble a compelling film in which to package it. Cutting between scenes of Fox’s heyday and him reflecting on his journey is very effective, and should be impactful both for those who grew up with Fox and those who have only known him following the sharing of his diagnosis. The film does come to a somewhat abrupt end, not spending much time on the past two decades, but that’s also not the point. This is a look back at Fox when he was constantly running, and the powerful imagery of how now all he’d like is to be still.

Grade: B+

Check out more of Abe Friedtanzer’s articles.

STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie makes its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres section and is coming to soon to Apple TV+.

Abe Friedtanzer
Abe Friedtanzerhttps://www.cinemadailyus.com
Abe Friedtanzer is a film and TV enthusiast who spent most of the past fifteen years in New York City. He has been the editor of MoviesWithAbe.com and TVwithAbe.com since 2007, and has been predicting the Oscars, Emmys, Golden Globes, and SAG Awards since he was allowed to stay up late enough to watch them. He has attended numerous film festivals including Sundance, Tribeca, and SXSW, and is a contributing writer for The Film Experience, Awards Radar, and AwardsWatch.


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