'Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie' review: A stirring portrait of the actor’s life
Courtesy of Apple TV+
You’d be pressed to find anyone you didn’t appreciate “Family Ties”, “Spin City,” or “Back to the Future,” and by proxy that means you won’t find many without a deep fondness for the comedic prowess and real word charm of movie and television star Micheal J. Fox. The Hollywood icon of the 80s, who aside from the Robert Zemeckis time traveling hit, also headlined “Teen Wolf,” “The Secret of My Success,” shocked the world in 1998 by revealing he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a nerve degenerating sickness he tried hiding for several years by ingesting medicines and developing smooth on air tactics. Eventually, it got past the point of no return and the truth needed to come out.
In “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” director Davis Guggenheim allows the actor to tell his own story through various creative methods. Employing voice overs and sequences from Fox’s filmography to amplify context. It presents a raw, unfiltered look at Fox, who in the years since his diagnosis, has raised over $2 billion dollars for Parkinson research as well as raising three children and maintaining a steady acting career. But it wasn’t always that easy and the film showcases the daily struggles Fox still endures from his condition, which makes him imbalanced, fidgety, and, at times, expressionless. Guggenheim is given unmitigated behind-the-scenes, and not so flattering, access to the constant training and routine the “Stuart Little” star utilizes in order to improve quality of life.
If the intercut scenes of Fox’s movies may seem a bit distracting, taking away precious airtime from Fox himself who is an engrossing on-screen subject, the calmer, down-to-earth moments, especially the scenes where it’s just his family razzing him, keeps the focus alive. And while the film explores Fox’s activism projects and eventual marriage to Tracy Pollan, who initially balked at his many advances, what really struck out during the interview process of “Still” is how Fox never wants pity from others. It adds to his already respectable persona, not to mention the documentary solidifies his comedic delivery. At one point, while walking down a public sidewalk, he accidently falls to the ground and when a random bystander tries helping him, he states jokingly: “Thank you for knocking me off my feet,” plus clips of his late night appearances are stitched into the movie.
In addition, “Still” explores the early days of Fox living on scraps in a shoddy LA apartment, washing his dishes in the shower and living on a diet of McDonalds, before booking “Family Ties,” which, after insane audience test scores, shifted focus from the parents to Fox’s character; there was also the tedious back-and-forth of shooting the popular sitcom and “Back to the Future” on 16 hour loops, and dealing with the overnight success those project afforded him. It’s the kind of star power that rarely exists anymore and if “Still” teaches us anything about Fox and his tireless work ethic, it's that there will never be another like him. The documentary does an excellent job at presenting the actor in a singular lens and letting us get to know the man he’s become today.
STILL: A MICHAEL J FOX MOVIE streams on Apple TV+ Friday, May 12th.