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Sundance 2023 Review – Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie – “His optimism is still the overriding feel of this documentary.”

As a child of the ’80s, Michael J. Fox holds a special place in my heart.  I remember watching Family Ties when I was young, and seeing him in Back to the Future and Teen Wolf.  He was seemingly everywhere at the time.  While he couldn’t stay the golden boy of Hollywood forever, Fox has remained a beloved presence in many people’s lives; whether it’s from re-watching the adventures of Marty McFly, or most recently seeing Fox in his Emmy-nominated guest spots on The Good Wife (and then The Good Fight).  This is all despite his very public battle with Parkinson’s disease.

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The documentary Still allows Fox to tell his story from his own perspective, in his own words.  He talks about his early years growing up in Canada, where he was a youngster always on the move, as well as the day he received his Parkinson’s diagnosis at age 29.  Says the actor, “I couldn’t be still until I literally couldn’t keep still.”

There is a great amount of nostalgia in this biography, with footage from Fox’s early work on television, to The Frighteners, Casualties of War, For Love or Money and of course Back to the Future and its sequels as well.  What is interesting though is how these clips are utilized, just not as a linear list of Fox’s accomplishments but as a way to help tell and reenact his story.  Along with a stand-in double, whom we only really see from the back, director Davis Guggenheim uses scenes from Fox’s work to help complement the actor’s narration.

For instance, Fox may talk about having to be picked up from his apartment, where we see the double hurriedly get into a car, and be driven to the Family Ties set, where we then cut to a scene of Alex P. Keaton bursting through a door.  And they managed to find scenes relevant to so many moments in Fox’s life.  Full credit to editor Michael Harte for this one.  Set to a killer soundtrack that includes Guns N’ Roses’ Welcome to the Jungle and Kenny Loggins’ This is It, Still is a wonderfully entertaining way to re-visit Fox’s catalogue of work in a way that remains completely engaging.

Fox, who speaks candidly between the montages of his work, is ever charming and funny, even as he has difficulty getting the biting one-liners he thinks of to form as words.  His humour now is often self-deprecating, trying to make light of the falling accidents he has, or his inability to text back his children.  Yet in telling his story, he is also honest, from recalling the denial of his diagnosis to his dependency on alcohol as a coping mechanism (he’s now 30 years sober).  We watch as he works through physical therapy sessions to keep himself mobile and he shares the moments on screen where he tried to hide his symptoms.

Though Fox talks about the pain he is in with each spasm his body goes through, his optimism is still the overriding feel of this documentary.  He doesn’t want anybody’s pity.  He knows that if he’s around years from now it will either be because there’s a cure or because he’s “a pickle.”  Sad as that may seem, it drives Fox to continue his work fundraising for Parkinson’s research, an even more important stage for him now.  His story is entirely inspirational and considering the hardships he’s managed to overcome in his life Michael J. Fox will keep pushing on.  As he himself states, “I’m a tough son of a bitch.”

Still premiered at Sundance January 20th and has in person screenings until the 29th.  In the U.S., the film is available online until January 25th.  Information can be found at the festival website.  The film will have release on Apple +.

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