Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie takes us into the world of one of the most inspirational stars, looking at his career and Parkinson’s battle.
PLOT: An in-depth look at Michael J. Fox’s career and how, many years after his diagnosis with Parkinson’s, he manages the worsening symptoms of the disease.
REVIEW: For those of us who came up in the eighties, Michael J. Fox was right up there with Tom Cruise in that he was the movie star many of us looked up to as the cool older brother we always wanted. Nowadays, people may not realize just how big he was, with him starring in not only the biggest show on TV (Family Ties) but also headlining a slew of movies that were box office juggernauts. Sure, people know that Back to the Future was a phenomenon, but Teen Wolf also made a boatload of cash, and The Secret of My Success was one of the highest-grossing comedies of the eighties. At the time, there was no bigger star.
Of course, we all know now that in his prime, Fox developed Parkinson’s disease, a disorder he managed to keep secret for many years. Since going public with the diagnosis, he’s become an inspiring figure to many, thanks to his perpetual optimism and the fact that despite worsening symptoms, he’s always put himself out there (he recently retired from acting but still makes frequent public appearances). Heck, on Curb Your Enthusiasm, he even milked the condition for laughs, which very few folks would have the guts to do.
STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie is the latest documentary from Davis Guggenheim, who made An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman, He Named Me Malala, and many more breakout documentary hits. He specializes in stories meant to inspire and STILL is no exception. Fox is an open book here, allowing Guggenheim to chronicle the ever-worsening effects of his condition. We’ve never seen Fox this way, as when he’s done movies and TV (and interviews), he’s been on medication that helps control the symptoms to a certain extent. Here, he allows us to see just how bad it can be.
Yet, what’s inspiring about the movie is Fox’s relentless optimism and good humour. If you’ve read his book, Lucky Man, you’ll know there’s not an ounce of self-pity in the man. During the film, we see him sustain several severe injuries related to his condition, two of which require having pins inserted into his face and hands. We see him work with Occupational Therapists as he tries to manage his symptoms, and his plucky spirit is infectious. Through everything, Fox views himself as lucky, having a loving relationship with his devoted wife (and former co-star) Tracy Pollan and doting on his kids.
Guggenheim uses a wide array of footage from Fox’s career to dramatize his rise in Hollywood, with the film digging into his lean years as a teen actor to his eventual breakthrough on Family Ties. The now legendary stories about Fox shooting Back to the Future and Family Ties simultaneously for three months are retold here. But Fox also opens up about his struggle with alcoholism, admitting that his symptoms began after an especially rough night of partying on the set of Doc Hollywood. He also acknowledges how bad some of his movies from the mid-nineties were, revealing various sequences from the films that demonstrate that he was trying to hide his symptoms. His comeback is solidified with Spin City, but footage from the show illustrates how there was no way he could keep his condition a secret.
If you’ve read Lucky Man, many of these stories will be familiar, but there’s something extra compelling about watching Fox tells the various anecdotes. He lets us in, presenting us with the brutal reality of his condition, but he never inspires pity – only admiration. Suffice it to say; this should be a crowdpleaser for Apple Films, who are set to release this movie to streaming. If you’re a fan of Fox’s or feel you just need a little motivation from a guy who’s seen his share of adversity, this is the doc for you.