Skip to content

#HotDocs23 Review: STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie

May 3, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The 2023 Hot Docs Film Festival runs from April 27th to May 7th in Toronto, more information on tickets and showtimes can be found right here.

Directed by Davis Guggenheim (the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth), STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie is an entertaining and emotional biography of the beloved Canadian-born actor, that cleverly uses clips from his films and TV shows to help tell the story of his rise to fame and Parkinson’s diagnosis.

With the help of reenacted flashbacks that are seamlessly blended into the film clips and archival footage by editor Michael Harte (Three Identical Strangers), the film takes us through Fox’s choice to drop out of high school and move to Hollywood at a young age. After struggling to make it, he soon got his big break on the sitcom Family Ties, and in the blockbuster movie Back to the Future, which he had to shoot simultaneously with the show when he was brought in last minute to replace Eric Stoltz in the iconic role of Marty McFly. And the rest is history.

There’s a reason why it’s so fitting that the words A Michael J. Fox Movie are in the title of this documentary; because Guggenheim’s film is very effective at crafting a satisfying cinematic narrative out of the actor’s life. It’s the compelling story of a scrawny, small-for-his-age kid who was perpetually the shortest one in his class, and finally made it big in Hollywood, only to have it all fall out from under him when he was diagnosed with an incurable disease at the height of his career. It’s one heck of an arc for a film.

We get a montage of Fox on the rise, box office charts showing his films shooting to the top, while “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses blares on the soundtrack. This is all to remind us that he was the hottest young actor of his day, enjoying a life of fast cars and hard partying. That all changed with his Parkinson’s diagnosis in 1991 at the young age of 29, which he initially kept a secret by trying to hide his tremors onscreen through medication, and numbing his pain through alcohol.

But Fox, who candidly speaks to the camera throughout in a sit-down interview and still shows crack comic timing, is adamant that he doesn’t want this to be a sob story, even though we see his increasing difficulty walking and the injuries from his frequent falls. After coming to terms with his diagnosis, Fox chose to largely step away from acting to focus on his longtime marriage to Family Ties co-star Tracy Pollan, and their four kids together, with Guggenheim (who was given final cut on the film by Fox) gaining intimate access into his home.

The actor also founded the Michael J. Fox Foundation to raise money for Parkinson’s research, a legacy that will surely live on as much as his classic roles. Fox admits that, from a young age even before his diagnosis, he was always in motion and struggled to sit still, a statement that ultimately gives deeper meaning to the title of STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie. Guggenheim’s film offers a highly enjoyable overview of his career, but also a moving and inspiring look at his choice to keep going and raise awareness of the disease, with Fox’s ultimately optimistic outlook on life shining brightest.

Screenings: Monday, May 1st, 6:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1; Friday, May 5th, 6:30 PM at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1; Sunday, May 7th, 10:00 AM at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. Tickets can be purchased here.

No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: