Nothing but respect can be offered to Michael J. Fox, the tremendous nostalgia fodder star and accidental charity networker. His pioneering efforts in bringing attention to Parkinson’s are admirable, and his movies are too. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, is exactly as its title suggests. Following on neatly from the agony present in his autobiography, Always Looking Up, Fox presents the essentials of what a role model should be and what a good person should do. An intimate display from documentarian Davis Guggenheim gives him, Fox, and Apple, a real shot at clarifying a disease which many are aware of but are limited in their knowledge of. The best documentaries educate and entertain in equal measure, and while it is difficult to suggest Still is at all entertaining, it does what all strong documentaries do.
Handled with care and expressing real interest in its subject, Still presents Fox as what he is. Just a guy who had a flicker with fame which far exceeded most others. Fox is beloved because he radiates warmth and energy here in an exact and earnest fashion as in his projects, featured roles and cameos. He has infected the lives of millions and done great work behind it all. Intimate Still can be in the optimism of one man, it spends much of its time detailing the inevitable. Tragic and yanking at the heartstrings rather easily, tender emotions drifting off, falling to pieces like wet cake. Little reenactments from Fox, recalling the events which led to his diagnosis, the spliced movie rolls and well-maintained reenactments without quite seeing his face, are artistic as well as informative.
Peeling behind the curtain, it is clear Fox does not want pity. He says as much himself as Still documents the everyday basics as tremendously difficult. Still acknowledges the uncomfortable line of pity and audiences poking their nose where it does not really belong. Guggenheim moves that out of the way, addresses it and brings on the next wave. As much a biopic of Fox’s entire life as a disease which does not define him but gives him a chance to bring attention to a notable cause. Still spends much of its time documenting the career Fox has and his roots too, wonderful experiences not put together so compact and clearly as here.
Seeing anyone in agony, friends, family or strangers, is not a nice experience. Michael J. Fox is in the third category for almost everyone but has his claws in the minds of those same majorities. They grew up with his work as we did with Gene Wilder, or whichever idol some hold in high regard. Hunter S. Thompson, Jarvis Cocker and Helen Sharman. A big three, a unique three and everyone has their idols. For Fox, it is clear to see how he remains a shining light of goodness, Still shows it and his autobiography does too. There is an inevitability Fox does not ignore, that the documentary admits to, and it is heartbreaking. But it is heartbreaking not because audiences will grieve or struggle as Fox does, but because his efforts and optimism have touched generation after generation. He still does, and Still is, more than anything, a reminder of that.