A new documentary focuses on Michael J. Fox’s life and career
Film | Jorge Ignacio Castillo
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie
Apple TV, May 12
While Michael J. Fox remains a fascinating subject, one wonders if there’s any aspect of his life left to the imagination. Not only have his acting career and battle against Parkinson’s disease been well documented, Fox himself has penned four autobiographical books. He wasn’t coy in them either.
Given that, what’s the point of Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie? In one word: focus. Documentary filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth) isn’t interested in rehashing every twist and turn in Fox’s career, unless it contributes to the main narrative: Fox’s quixotic pursuit for stillness.
Early on, Fox couldn’t have cared less about being still. He was a hungry actor who became terribly popular thanks to the one-two punch of the NBC sitcom Family Ties and the Back to the Future franchise. Parkinson’s, the ups and downs of his career, and alcoholism made stillness a goal — an increasingly unattainable one.
Because Guggenheim is an excellent interviewer, Fox reveals he has evolved from an optimist to a realist. He doesn’t expect a long life or a cure for Parkinson’s in his lifetime. This is not to say he has given up. Daily gym routines, walks around his neighbourhood, and physiotherapy reveal he’s still fighting for a decent quality of life for as long as possible.
Even though the fresh material is limited, the documentary leaves us with a more genuine portrait of the actor. Neither Guggenheim nor Fox are interested in mythologizing his struggle, or the uber successful foundation it spawned. Fox remains refreshingly self-deprecating, if slightly less upbeat than the guy we have come to know.
Barely 95 minutes long, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie feels rushed. While I get this isn’t a retrospective (Fox’s film career is basically used as B-roll to illustrate episodes in his life) a deeper dive would have created a more rounded portrait of the often underrated actor and what we lost as an audience. ■