Emmy-winning actor Michael J. Fox reflects on his life and his fight against Parkinson’s Disease in STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie.
Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim takes an interesting approach to his documentary on the Back to the Future star. This is a documentary that could have gone any number of ways. Instead, editor Michael Harte has quite the job of weaving in clips from films and series to match what the actor is saying. There’s a few recreations, too, but for the most part, it’s all Michael J. Fox. It’s not something that I might have thought about but it certainly works as the actor discusses his move to Beverly Hills.
It’s hard to imagine a universe where Fox gives up on acting before landing the gigs that would make him a superstar. He was selling furniture from his Beverly Hills apartment before going out on one last addition. It turns out that this audition would eventually land him a role on Family Ties. From there, he would land a part in Back to the Future, but only after things weren’t working out for Eric Stoltz. After a number of box office misfires, Fox returned to TV in the hit sitcom Spin City because of wanting a better work/family balance. It wasn’t until 1998 in which the actor went public about being diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. He was first diagnosed at age 29, which is very young for such a diagnosis. Because of memory issues, Fox announced his retirement from acting.
Davis Guggenheim has an unprecedented amount of access to the Fox family. Outside of Michael and wife actress Tracy Pollan Fox, their children also appear in the film. There’s an archival clip of former NBC president Brandon Tartikoff discussing his reluctance to cast Fox in Family Ties. He comments that Fox doesn’t have the face to appear on lunch boxes. In classic comedy fashion, Guggenheim makes sure to call back the moment later on thanks to Back to the Future becoming a hit at the box office. The moment got plenty of laughs during the premiere but there were so many other moments that drew laughs, too, including clips from The Good Wife and Curb Your Enthusiasm.
I saw this film on Friday afternoon and I’m still thinking about it–especially the editing. Imagine how much footage that they have to go through! And yet, they still manage to find the right clip that works at the moment. This doesn’t even begin to take into account the many national interviews after Fox shot to superstardom or opened up about Parkinson’s. It only runs 95 minutes but I’m sure there’s probably more than enough material for a two-part documentary. In any event, this is a documentary that had to be made now. Much like Fox’s memoir, there is no telling just how much longer that he will be able to access his mind. You can’t help but get emotional while watching the actor know what he wants to say but is unable to get the words out.
Apple TV announced the acquisition back in April 2022. The premiere received a standing ovation at Sundance, However, audiences will have to wait a while before watching at home. Outside of press and industry, the film is not available for virtual audiences during Sundance. If you can’t wait that long, you can read Fox’s memoir, No Time Like the Future: An Optimist Considers Mortality, if you haven’t already done so.
STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie is one of the best documentaries of the year.
DIRECTOR: Davis Guggenheim
FEATURING: Michael J. Fox, Tracy Pollan
STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie holds its world premiere during the 2023 Sundance Film Festival in the Premieres program. The film is coming soon to Apple TV+. Grade: 5/5
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