Documentary Review – Still: A Michael J Fox Movie

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I’ll be honest, prior to Back To The Future, I hadn’t heard of him. I guess that I was on the wrong side of the Atlantic to catch any of the numerous TV appearances that he had made from 1978 onwards. Furthermore, I’ll be even more brutally honest and say that, apart from the other two parts of the trilogy, I was struggling to think of anything else I’d seen him in. I think I caught Teen Wolf on TV one night. I struggled to remember his role in Mars Attacks! I know he’s been in lots of things, some of which I’ve seen, but I just can’t remember him in anything else.

So why do I have any interest in this biographical documentary about Michael J Fox? I suppose it is testament to how well he became Marty McFly. Let’s face it, Marty McFly isn’t perfect; anyone who can be manipulated into doing anything merely by being called a chicken shouldn’t be anyone’s role model. But, despite that, he is resourceful, amusing, and engaging. So we forgive him his failings, get behind him, and want him to overcome the problems set before him. However, Still: A Michael J Fox Movie is an exploration of a problem that neither Marty nor Michael can overcome.

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Gravity Is Real…

Still: A Michael J Fox Movie tells the story of  Michael J Fox’s life since he noticed his symptoms, got the diagnosis, and how he lives with Parkinson’s Disease. It’s listed as a biography and documentary but there isn’t much about his early days. Basically it can be summed up by he was short and looked young.  He noticed the shortness when he was six years old and out trick or treating with his three year old sister but people assumed they were twins. Young looking helped when he started acting and could play the part of a schoolboy without needing to worry about all those interfering child labour laws.

Still: A Michael J Fox Movie opens with a long shot of an hotel in 1990. We go inside and into a bedroom.  Michael J Fox says how he awoke with a world class hangover. He put his hand over his eyes to block the Florida sunlight. He felt what he thought was a moth fluttering on his cheek. When he went to flick it away he discovered that it was actually his little finger moving of its own accord. His first thought was that he’d spent the previous evening with Woody Harrelson when there was excessive drinking and shenanigans but he he couldn’t feel any bumps.

…Even If You Only Fall From My Height

That trembling finger was a message from the future.  Despite being one of the most sought after and in demand actors of the day he was in “an acid bath of fear and professional insecurity.” He descended into a life of prescription drug and alcohol dependency. The alcohol has gone from his life now but he, obviously, still needs his prescription meds. Even with these his life is punctuated with falls and accidentally self inflicted injuries. Fortunately, he also has his family by his side; wife Tracy Pollan, a son and three daughters.

The story behind Still: A Michael J Fox Movie is compulsive viewing. The man who was always renowned for appearing so young is now showing his age but there is still a spark of the old charm and humour which made him such a success. One way that the film scores a massive hit is that it uses clips from Michael J Fox’s many films to illustrate the narrative; they are seamlessly woven in and you only notice the really famous ones. One thing is that you start looking at how Michael uses props and movement to hide the tremors in his left hand; you do find yourself drawn to that hand and realise what he must have been going through.

Movie Grade: A

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