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Review: Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (2023)

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (2023)

Directed by: Davis Guggenheim

Premise: A documentary about actor Michael J. Fox focusing on his career and his diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease.

What Works: Still serves as an introduction to Michael J. Fox for younger audiences who may not be familiar with his work and for older viewers it’s a fond review of Fox’s life and career. The film alternates between his past and present, juxtaposing Fox’s ascent to fame and his latter-day struggles with Parkinson’s disease. The greatest strength of Still is Michael J. Fox himself who serves as a narrator. Fox has always had an easy and likable persona which served him well as an actor and that quality defines Still. Fox was one of the major movie stars of the 1980s and he achieved fame at a young age and Fox is honest about how celebrity affected him and how he treated other people. But Fox is also adamant that we not regard him with pity. He is aware of the fortunate life that he’s led and Fox and the filmmakers regard the Parkinson’s diagnosis very matter-of-factly. That’s the other great strength of Still. The film is honest about Fox and his condition. There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease and it has effectively ended Fox’s acting career. The present-day sequences show Fox getting around as best he can and working with a physical trainer and others to make the best of his situation. In this respect, Still is reminiscent of the Roger Ebert documentary Life Itself in the frankness with which it deals with this man’s medical condition. Still is quite honest about Fox’s condition and the realities of his life and it doesn’t seek to sentimentalize the issue. However, the filmmakers do apply an interesting technique. The story of Fox’s career is visualized through a combination of dramatic reenactments and clips of his movies and television shows. The skill with which these pieces are edited together is very impressive. The Hollywood sequences are very slick and Fox’s movie star phase is presented in a highly produced manner that’s appropriate to the subject and contrasts with the more realistic portrayal of his later life.

What Doesn’t: Still works its way through Michael J. Fox’s career but it doesn’t really analyze his work or reveal much about the making of these films and sitcoms. Viewers won’t come away from this documentary with any greater understanding of Fox’s work as an actor. The documentary is also lightweight. It’s not especially revelatory about Fox or Hollywood or Parkinson’s disease. It gives each topic its due but doesn’t delve very deeply into any of these areas.

Disc extras: Apple TV.

Bottom Line: Much like its subject, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is a likable documentary that serves as a portrait of this man and his life. It’s not terribly deep but it is very well produced and has moments of honesty that are admirable. 

Episode: #951 (June 4, 2023)