Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie Review | Back and to the Future

by Andrew Parker

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie finds a famous actor looking back on their unusual life and circumstances with a refreshing amount of candour and cutting self reflection. A documentary where the much lauded and well liked celebrity at the centre of it is striving for honesty rather than further adulation, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is a warts and all take on familiar territory. There are ups, downs, reflections on mortality, good times, and deep regrets, but actor, advocate, and memoirist Michael J. Fox balances the telling of his life story with a keen sense of humour and a down-to-earth, matter-of-fact tone. Here is a person who knows where they’ve been and has made peace with the volatile, uncertain nature of their future, and director Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for ‘Superman) lets that narrative play as it lies.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie isn’t reinventing documentary form or uncovering any information about its sole interview subject that isn’t already out in public. Guggenheim takes most of his interviewing cues from Fox’s previously published books, and really only coaxes out further, minor details that didn’t make it onto the page. It’s straightforward adaptation and extension, not much more, but the still charismatic and gregarious Fox is able to captivate the viewer through the simple act of running back the clock and not having to worry about killing the image he once had as an actor.

Fox is upfront about how he used to be an asshole, but then again, so many artists who experienced tremendous amounts of fame at a young age are exactly that for a short (or in some cases prolonged) period of time. Fox is willing to oblige with anecdotes about his biggest successes and more curious missteps, and his eternal struggle between wanting to be an in-demand star and being taken seriously as an actor. Fox knows he can’t take back any of the decisions he’s made, so he accepts them head on for what they are. He’s grateful for the high points, and accepting of that which he cannot change.

Fox has a way with words that Guggenheim showcases nicely. His effortless demeanour and poise points back to his laid back Canadian roots, but there’s a succinctness to his speech that suggests someone who doesn’t want to waste more time than necessary. There’s a fire in his belly, but he revels in the smaller, quieter details rather than the moments he has to shout about. Whether he’s talking about the highs of his career or the lows of his addictions and current battle with Parkinson’s Disease, Fox always sounds like an everyman relating his story and feelings to friends. It’s inviting and informative in equal measure; the mark of a great storyteller.

Naturally, a lot of the focus in Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is placed on the current struggles faced by its subject. Guggenheim follows Fox as he tries to live a normal life, unencumbered by disability or the degenerative disease that’s causing his body to seemingly revolt against his wishes. It can be quite scary to watch Fox push himself to and beyond his limits in these sequences, but the interview segments of the film help to make the viewer understand that the truth of his life is sometimes messier than those living outside his inner circle realize. He’s a man who will keep fighting until there’s nothing left to give, and he has no illusions one way or another about the future. Whether his body agrees with it or not, Fox is determined to keep on living. He will leave no unused energy on the table by the time he’s forced to leave the earth.

Guggenheim delivers some well staged recreations and lucks into some remarkable archival footage (much of which I’m surprised still exists), but Fox’s presence remains the main appeal here. It’s not a precious or overly egotistical delivering of autobiographical material, but it also isn’t shrugging anything off. Still: A Michael J. Fox movie tackles life, fame, family, relationships, and illness in a moving, comprehensive, and endlessly reflective manner.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is available to stream on Apple TV+ starting Friday, May 12, 2023.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie was originally screened at the 2023 Sundance and Hot Docs film festivals.

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