Michael J. Fox may not be the first name that comes out of your lips when talking about legendary actors, but nearly everyone loves him. On the big screen and the small screen, he created iconic characters, showcasing a comedic timing that ranks among the greats. So, when Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it felt like an even bigger tragedy. The man himself wouldn’t want a documentary centered on just his illness, of course. So, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is here to tell his story, both as an actor and as a human being. By far, this movie is my favorite work of the Sundance Film Festival this year.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie could have been a depressing experience, but Fox himself refuses to let it be anything like that. In fact, when asked directly if this is going to be a documentary about an actor who got sick, he says no, that that’s boring. He would be right, and in making the film about his entirety, we get a fuller meal. The doc is better for it, while managing to be funny and even uplifting, in addition to more than a bit sad.
The documentary follows the life of actor and Parkinson’s advocate Michael J. Fox, as he looks back on his career, as well as the incurable disease he now suffers from. Telling his own history, alongside depicting his current life, Fox is reflective and realistic, but also an incurable optimist, especially when the odds are long.
Seeing his early struggles and eventual rise to stardom, culminating in landing Family Ties on television and Back to the Future on the big screen, the world becomes Fox’s oyster in the 1980s. Of course, in the 1990s, his diagnosis at age 29 cast a shadow on that. Hiding it until he decided the truth had to come out, it moves him from a superstar to something new…an advocate for a cure to Parkinson’s.
Watching Michael J. Fox in his day to day existence is to see a man refuse to be limited. He goes about his life as best he can, mostly having to contend with falling down a lot. Fox takes it all in with as much humor as possible, though occasionally things get rough when he’s about to take his medicine. Largely, you just get to see who Fox is, was, and who he hopes he can continue to be in the future.
Director Davis Guggenheim lets Fox largely tell his own story. Instead of talking heads, he has clips from Fox’s various films help, alongside the subject’s own narration. So, when Fox talks about one experience or another, a clip dramatizes it, essentially. This allows you to see plenty of classic flicks, but it also makes room for underrated gems of his like For Love or Money and The Secret of My Success. Guggenheim’s choice just lends something different to an already effective doc. Somehow, he almost makes it into a new Fox vehicle.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is my favorite movie at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Anyone who loves Fox will certainly find this to be a must see, but anyone who enjoys a documentary that gets in deep with its subject will be moved. That it’s someone like Fox is just a bonus at the end of the day. Bravo to this one, as it’s the class of Sundance this year.