Film Review: “STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie” Offers Delightful Homage
Written by: Christopher Llewellyn Reed | May 12th, 2023
STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie (Davis Guggenheim, 2023) 3½ out of 4 stars.
Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim has made many fine documentaries, including the 2006 Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth, a justly celebrated examination of the perils of climate change, featuring former Vice President Al Gore. Despite those credentials, he also directed the 2010 Waiting for Superman, a movie which committed the egregious sin of blaming the problems plaguing our nation’s school systems on teachers and teachers’ unions (as if educators didn’t have it hard enough …). Simplistically mendacious though that work may have been, Guggenheim nevertheless has some skills, and in his latest project, STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie, he amply demonstrates them, to the great benefit of audience and subject.
Born in 1961, actor Michael J. Fox at one point seemed to have it all. The 1980s were very good to him, what with the breakout success of both his television series Family Ties (which ran on NBC from 1982 to 1989) and the 1985 blockbuster movie Back to the Future (and its sequels). But then, at the start of the next decade, Fox would be diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system. What goes up must come down, it seems, except that this hardly proved the end of the man or his career.
In the film, Guggenheim both presents Fox as he is today, hampered but not imprisoned by the ravages of illness, and as he was in yesteryear, courtesy of generous sampling of his many performances. Even better, the director uses that footage of past roles as the supplementary B-roll to illustrate various topics and events brought up by Fox as he recounts his autobiography. The result is a wonderful journey through the highs and lows of a life well lived.
There is joy in revisiting the milestones—major and otherwise—of such a beloved icon. As someone who was a teenager in the 1980s, I cannot divorce my recollections of the era from Fox’s turn as Marty McFly. I’m glad to see he is still on his feet (except when he falls, as happens frequently, and about which Fox makes many self-deprecating jokes). Let his struggle and survival—which includes the funding of research into possible cures and treatments—serve as inspiration to many, if not all.
An additional strong suit of the movie is that it does not shy away from the less palatable aspects of Fox’s behavior, including an early selfishness fueled by ego and, later, alcoholism. Thanks to his longtime wife Tracy Pollan (who played Ellen on Family Ties), their four children, and his own growing self-awareness, Fox was able to right his ways and try to be the best version of himself he could be. In STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie, every such iteration appears at one point, in what is, by its end, a rousing, entertaining, and deeply moving portrait of its subject.