Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie (2023) ☆☆☆(3/4): Still going on as before

Documentary film “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie”, which is currently available on Apple TV+ now, is plain but undeniably touching for good reasons. While simply letting its main human subject talk in front of the camera, the documentary gives us a vivid and intimate presentation of his interesting life and career, and we cannot help but more moved to see how he is willing to go further during the rest of his later years.

The documentary mainly revolves around a series of interview sessions between director David Guggenheim and Michael J. Fox, who has always been remembered for not only his considerable success in TV and movie business but also his well-known struggle with Parkinson’s disease for more than 30 years. Although he completely retired from acting a few years ago because of his deteriorating physical condition, you can still feel that spirited charm from Fox’s casual appearance, and he is certainly ready to tell as much as requested by Guggenheim behind the camera.

In the beginning, Fox reminisces and reflects on the struggles during his early years. When he grew up in Canada, he was your typical hyperactive kid, and his extroverted personality certainly helped him a lot as he later came to participate in the drama club of his school. As recommended by his drama club teacher, he came to do the audition for a supporting role in a local TV sitcom series in the late 1970s, and his following little success eventually led him to Hollywood, though he had to struggle a lot even while he continued to get roles here and there during next several years.

Fox still remembers well how desperate things were for him during that time. He was certainly eager to grab any big opportunity, but that seemed to be out of his reach to his frustration as reflected by his unsuccessful audition for a certain crucial supporting role in Robert Redford’s debut feature film “Ordinary People” (1980). He really tried hard, but Redford and others did not show much interest from the beginning, and that role eventually went to Timothy Hutton, who subsequently won an Oscar for the movie.

Nevertheless, Fox kept trying despite running out of options, and then there came another chance he was quite willing to reach for. Although the producers of “Family Ties” were not so convinced about whether he was right for the role even when they were about to shoot its pilot episode, but, what do you know, Fox charmed and amused everyone on the set once the camera began to roll, and that was the beginning of his stardom during the 1980s.

While “Family Ties” eventually garnered him three consecutive Emmy awards as well as considerable popularity, Fox got a much bigger boost at the same time when he was cast for the lead role of “Back to the Future” (1985) at the last minute. At first, Steven Spielberg and his director Robert Zemeckis shot the film with Eric Stoltz instead because Fox was not available due to “Family Ties”, but they eventually decided that they really needed Fox, and Fox was quite ready for that even though he would not sleep that much during next several weeks as busily switching back and forth between the respective sets of “Family Ties” and “Back to the Future” every day.

As we all know, this professional dedication of his led him to a success beyond his imagination. Thanks to the immense popularity of “Back to the Future” and its following two sequels, Fox became one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, and he also came to marry Tracy Pollan, an actress with whom he instantly fell in love right from their first working day on the set of “Family Ties”. He certainly felt like being at the top of the world, and he frankly tells us about the positive and negative aspects of the rapid rise of his acting career, which also caused some strain in his relationship with his wife.

However, not long after his father’s death, Fox suddenly found that something was going wrong in his supposedly youthful body during one morning of 1990. At first, it seemed to be the consequence of another wild drinking night with his actor friend Woody Harrelson, but then, to his shock and surprise, his doctor notified to him that he was actually suffering the early onset of Parkinson’s disease.

While keeping this in secret to everyone except his wife, Fox tried to go on as much as possible, but he could not help but become morose and depressed while his career also seemed to reach to a sort of dead end, and he confided to us about how he often resorted to alcohol during that depressing period. Fortunately, with his wife standing by him as usual, he bounced back from the bottom, and then there came another successful TV sitcom series in his career.

Even during that time, he tried to hide his illness from others in one way or another, but he eventually revealed his ongoing struggle with Parkinson’s disease in public, and, to his surprise, his life and career became much better than before. While he kept working for more than 10 years, he became a good father and husband to his wife and their children, and he has also passionately devoted himself to more public awareness of Parkinson’s disease (He received the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award from the Academy Awards for that in last year, by the way).

Overall, “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” is an entertaining documentary mainly thanks to Fox’s likable presence, and Guggenheim did a commendable job of mixing Fox’s interview clips with various archival footage clips and some tasteful reenactment scenes. I must point out that it does not show anything particularly new here, but it is difficult not to be moved by Fox’s candid reflection on his life and career, and that is more than enough for recommendation.

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