When Betty White passed away in late 2021, I pondered how our shared feelings for her might be the only unifying thing in an increasingly fractured culture.
But we have Michael J. Fox.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie
Intimate and skillfully constructed.
Whether you’re like me and grew up at a time when Fox was simultaneously the biggest star on film and television — back when those lines were harder to cross — or you’ve been following his life for a while. Over the past two decades as an overt crusader for Parkinson’s disease research and awareness, it’s been hard not to have a personal investment in the Canadian actor and advocate.
Fox receives endearing and intimate documentary treatment in Apple TV+’s Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. Director Davis Guggenheim is married to Elisabeth Shue, Fox’s ’80s co-star, and whether that gives him a direct connection to Fox or just a direct understanding of a kind of celebrity 80s, the result is easily the best Oscar-winning film. Guggenheim’s specific approach here leaves a lot of room for the next documentary filmmaker looking to celebrate Fox’s life, but with its tight focus and distinctive style, it delivers on its energetic nature of Fox, and its appeal spans generations.
“Distinctive style” was never something I was previously associated with the Guggenheim (An inconvenient truth, He named me Malala), but there are aspects of the director’s work here that are inspired and close to experimentation, or at least resemble the narrative collage you might expect more from a filmmaker like Rodney Ascher (Room 237).
From its multifaceted title to its aesthetic, Stand still aims to capture Fox’s life as something of a blur. Fox boomed as both a celebrity and a star, working at a pace that never made him stop or sit still, but when health forced him to cut back or refocus on his career. his own body, his body refused to let him control his stillness. Yet here he is, still perfectly familiar with his rhythms, his humorous timing, and his tone of voice. It’s a fast-forward life, in which simply walking has become an act of focus and strategy.
Guggenheim sat with Fox for lengthy interviews, conversations in which the actor broke down his autobiography in terms familiar from many of his memoirs. But what is remarkable is how many of the best materials in Stand still comes from what could be behind-the-scenes footage. Conversations aside when Fox has to pause mid-story to take a pill or when Guggenheim mentions multiple bruises and new braces, breaking the continuity that has made Fox’s everyday life in every way possible. more revealing and enlightening than strict biography. .
When it comes to Fox’s well-being, Guggenheim asks roughly the same questions that viewers at home would have, and even if the topic under discussion is really engaging — starting with the inevitable “Why?” make this documentary NOW?” query – their humorous relationship at least eliminates the inevitable tears. Guggenheim has access to the key moments in Fox’s life – ordinary family time, intense rehabilitation sessions, difficult doctor’s appointments – and the effective balance between Humorous and poignantly rooted in Fox. Stand still is a one-themed documentary with Fox as the sole talker, but that accessibility has made some of his children, and especially his wife Tracy Pollan, very popular figures. pop in the story.
Guggenheim, editor Michael Harte, and the archivist team illustrate Fox’s biography with an ingenious mix of voiceovers, staged rendition, and clips from Fox’s work as well as TV and red carpet appearances. different from him, though not in the way you might imagine. Except My secret to success used to illustrate parts of Fox’s initial struggle to get to his professional footing, while Family relationship episodes in which Alex is exhausted from a new job produce frantic re-enactments depicting his dual duties between the NBC sitcom and Back to the future. Excerpt from For Love or Money highlights the efforts he has gone to to cover up his Parkinson’s disease symptoms before going public.
Sometimes you can pinpoint the exact movie or behind-the-scenes interviews from which Guggenheim is taking the footage, and sometimes it’s not so clear, and I think that uncertainty helps with the documentary. Whether. It adds an intellectual effort to our existing investment in Fox, leaving us scrambling to find connections just as we are tracking Fox’s arduous efforts to do things that weren’t possible before. Here he can do it easily. In addition to Harte and his team of cinematographers, John Powell’s versatility deserves credit for bringing together different tonal and form factors.
There are parts of Fox’s career and life that perhaps should have been dug deeper, outside voices that could provide an additional layer of insight into aspects of his proven talent. timeless and still perfectly suited to 80s stardom. It may be necessary to learn a little more about the pressure Fox feels as a source of inspiration and perhaps even misplaced pity, a disappointment that comes in exactly one rehab, but never interrogated now.
So maybe a four-hour Michael J. Fox documentary will still be made based on what Judd Apatow did with Garry Shandling and George Carlin. But what the Guggenheim has done here is in itself gratifying and inspiring.