I had forgotten what a huge star Michael J. Fox was back in the 80s and 90s, but director Davis Guggenheim‘s documentary “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” didn’t take long to remind me. This bittersweet film traces Fox’s life and career from his childhood up until present day, where the former actor struggles with advanced Parkinson’s disease. It’s a very entertaining movie about a ridiculously likeable subject from a skilled and accomplished filmmaker. In other words, it’s everything a well-made documentary should be.
Fox tells his own life story in his own words by reading from his personal memoirs (published in the 2000s), which makes the project feel extremely intimate. Always short in stature with youthful good looks, Fox recounts the story of how he landed his first role playing a sixth grader when he was 16. He then moved into a run-down apartment in California to try to make it in Hollywood. After months of enduring the hard knock life of a wannabe actor (eating packets of jelly for dinner and not finding any success), Fox was ready to pack up and head back home.
But it’s funny how fate sometimes steps in: soon after, he was handed the breakout role of Alex P. Keaton on the popular sitcom “Family Ties,” which led to being cast as Marty McFly in Steven Spielberg’s “Back to the Future” trilogy, which in turn led to a quick rise to superstardom. Fox enjoyed the ride until the day his life and world changed forever: when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness at age 29.
Guggenheim uses dramatic recreations, archival footage, and clips from Fox’s most famous movies to aid in his storytelling. His direction is fantastic, and it’s surprising how interesting Fox’s life was and is. There are lots of one-on-one, very candid interviews with Fox that give insight into his mindset. It’s clear that his positive attitude has gone a long way over the years, and Guggenheim gives a real sense of how Fox is one of the most genuine, likeable guys on the planet. I loved spending time with him over the course of this documentary, and you will, too.
“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” is touching and has its fair share of melancholy, but it’s also inspiring, sentimental, and sweet. What a beautiful story of a bright light and a life well-lived.
By: Louisa Moore