Released: 12th May
Seen: 21st May
When it comes to stars of the 80s and 90s, it’s almost undeniable that one of the biggest names in the industry was Michael J Fox. He caught the world’s attention playing Alex P Keaton in the sitcom Family Ties (which would get him 3 consecutive Emmy awards, a rare feat in itself) and then cemented his place in film history with the iconic Back to the Future trilogy. Throughout the 80s and 90s you could not escape Michael J Fox, he was one of the biggest names around and was often the thing that was used to sell a movie to an audience. You weren’t going to go see Doc Hollywood because you were interested in films about surgeons, you were going because it was a Michael J Fox film and he was a big damn deal to pretty much everyone. Even his return to television in the late 90s was a big deal, with Spin City being a huge hit and netting him his fourth Emmy. The key point is that Michael was the original short king, someone who was considered unstoppable… and then his hand started to shake.
Still covers most of this history very quickly, running through the life of a man who rocketed to superstardom and how that affected him before dealing with the truly major element of modern Michael J Fox’s life. Still is a film about a man who had a career that people would envy that had to slow down due to his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease. Through a combination of archival footage, clips from his extensive filmography, some very well-shot recreations that perfectly link up to those clips, and a powerful set of interviews and trips to the doctor with the man himself, the audience is given the most intimate look possible at one of the most beloved figures in film & TV. If you didn’t love Michael J Fox before… well, there’s something wrong with you but if you somehow didn’t, this will make you love him even more.
It’s truly powerful how Still doesn’t shy away from anything, how Michael is willing to let every little bit of his life be put on film. We see trips to the doctor where he has to explain how he fell over again and broke his hand, talks with his family who are so used to this that they have their own little jokes about it and even sessions with a physical therapist/trainer who seems to just be trying to teach Michael how to slow down enough that he can walk without falling over (something that seems impossible because even now, Michael J Fox will not slow down for anyone). It can only be described as intimate, we’re sitting in the room where Michael is having serious medical discussions and we see it happen.
Of course, Still doesn’t just start with that, it lures the audience in with the promise of fun stories from the Family Ties or Back to the Future set, the standard Hollywood biography where we learn about the crappy apartment and the insane number of hours and the drinking and all that stuff that every film about an actor is destined to provide until the end of time. It’s why we watch it, to see the gritty side of things and it really plays that stuff up throughout the film until it slowly starts letting us in on the reality of how Michael’s Parkinson’s is impacting him.
It almost feels like he slowly gets worse throughout Still, maybe it’s just a trick of the edit, maybe it’s just what happened but you slowly become more and more aware of what this disease has done to such a beloved figure. There are a ton of stories about him dealing with it, he talks candidly about it and jokes about everything that he’s going through in ways that most couldn’t handle. He brings a levity to the situation that certainly makes it more palatable for a while and keeps you watching right up until the jokes stop and you’re left with the serious reality of it all. It’s powerful, expertly handled by everyone involved and makes for a forceful and engaging documentary that seems to just fly by.
Still is exactly the kind of documentary that this subject deserves. It’s funny, engaging, full of charm and wit but with one hell of a punch that will absolutely have you knocked over by the end. It’s a legacy piece, a way to remind everyone of how truly special Michael J Fox is as a performer and just how important he is as an activist for those with Parkinson’s. It’s truly something special, a film worthy of its very special subject.