Friday, April 19, 2024

Review: Michael J. Fox Remarkable Documentary “Still” Example of How to Live an Uncompromising Life with Parkinson’s


Eight years ago, in 2015, actor Michael J. Fox had holes drilled in his head to stop the shaking from Parkinson’s Disease. The surgery was so dangerous and experimental that it’s not even mentioned in Davis Guggenheim’s extraordinary documentary about Fox, called “Still,” now at the Sundance Film Festival.

Maybe the drilling worked. It must have since Fox, unbelievably, is still there. But he is not “Still.” He can’t remain still. On camera the 61 year old star of “Back to the Future” and numerous movies and TV series, looks like a wreck. He has suffered without complaining since his rare diagnosis in 1990. Even with Guggenheim’s cameras rolling, Fox won’t admit he’s in severe pain. Why not, the director asks? “You didn’t bring it up,” Fox replies.

This documentary will debut on Apple TV Plus. I implore you to watch it, and not. You will be in tears for much of it, as Guggenheim tracks Fox’s rocket like trajectory from “Family Ties” to “Back to the Future” and up, up, up, only to crash with his diagnosis. and keep it quiet for seven stunning years as he married, became a father, and kept working, working, working. He also became an alcoholic, trying to hide the pain with constant drinking.

Luckily, Fox had made a brilliant choice in a wife early on with actress Tracy Pollan. Mother of his four children, Pollan has soldiered her way through this journey. We see her but don’t hear a lot from her, which is too bad since she could certainly write a book. She herself had a blossoming career when she married Fox, and has mostly given it up to be devoted wife and mother. You’ll learn in the film how much Fox appreciates her.

Fox gives Guggenheim access into his home and therapy just enough so we get the idea. We are not there during perilous moments. We just hear about Fox falling down, breaking bones, and so on. Anyone who’s had a family member or friend with Parkinson’s will watch this film agog that Fox is even still alive at this point, that his family still has a sense of humor and that they’re not all drinking. Living with Parkinson’s is no sitcom. Like MS or ALS, it’s bent on total destruction. Somehow this family is making it. I have no doubt this film received a standing ovation at Sundance. You’ll do the same in your living room.

In November Fox was given the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, an honorary Oscar, by the Academy at the Governor’s Awards. It’s hoped he’ll be featured on camera at the Oscars in March to accept the award in person. His speech is below. Ironically, next year, “Still” may be up for an Oscar itself.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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