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STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie Review

STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie is charming and powerful, and exactly the film that this grand star deserves.

STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie review

A still from Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, an official selection of the Premieres program at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute

When we’re presented with a celebrity documentary, we can count on the usual beats: hearing about their life before they were famous, highlighting the height of their stardom and reflecting on the moments when things went haywire. STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie gives us a lot of that, but does so in such a creative, fresh way that we might forget we’re watching a documentary at times.

Helmed by director Davis Guggenheim, STILL blends archival footage from Fox’s stellar television and film career with restaged scenes from his personal life to show us a more complete image of the star. Though much of his story has been overshadowed by his Parkinson’s diagnosis, the documentary focuses on the fact that Fox is still the same funny and wickedly charming guy from hits such as “Back to the Future” and “Family Ties.”

But Fox also isn’t afraid to show us what his day-to-day looks like. It’s difficult to get out of bed in the morning without taking pills to help control the brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements. Walking can be a tough task too as he’s often seen with a physical therapist who reminds him to reset before he takes his next steps. But despite it all, he will still wave and smile to people who recognize him on the street – in one scene he trips as he’s walking and tells the person who passed him, “Nice to meet you! You knocked me off my feet!”

“STILL” gives us great insight into the beginning years of Fox’s career and how he catapulted into fame. He found his passion for acting at a young age, and when he was presented with the idea of dropping out of high school and moving to Los Angeles to pursue it full-time, he decided to take the chance. While it might be hard to imagine him before his characters Alex P. Keaton and Marty McFly, recreated scenes show a struggling actor who often relied on Smuckers jam packets for meals. It’s also hard to believe that he wasn’t the person they had in mind for “Family Ties,” but his undeniable charisma charmed producers and later audiences nationwide.

STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie sundance

The blend of archival footage and restaged scenes makes this documentary look more inviting than most others. As Fox is explaining how he filmed “Family Ties” for nine hours a day before heading over to film “Back to the Future” for the rest of the night, editors manage to stitch together scenes of him on “Family Ties” then traveling to the film set in recreated scenes and then coming back home and doing it all over again the next day. It looks so cinematic and smooth and makes learning about that time in his life much more exciting than just relying on old photos or videos, which is the usual move in other documentaries.

As exciting as it is to hear him talk about how much he skyrocketed to fame, the moments he talks about those who truly matter are standouts. Meeting Tracy Pollan on the set of “Family Ties” eventually led to a Hollywood romance that is still burning bright today.

Seeing them giggle on the couch as they respond to many of his missed text messages is so sweet, especially when his children join in the teasing. When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 29, he recalled that his wife said “in sickness and in health,” signaling she would be by his side no matter what. It’s heartwarming to see her at doctor’s appointments.

Once the documentary turns its focus on his struggles with Parkinson’s disease, we learn just how much in denial he was about the diagnosis and how hard he pushed himself to work so he didn’t have to think about it. Through clips of his work in the 1990s, we can see the times when he hid his symptoms by holding something in his hand or keeping it out of view.

Guggenheim asks thoughtful questions that let the actor share even more with us, and the camera doesn’t break focus from him when he’s vulnerable, leading to even more emotional moments. Even more delightful is how he has brought visibility to the disease in the media. We see clips of him on “The Good Wife” explaining his illness to a group of jurors, and in a comedic way to acknowledge his shaking, he hands a bottle of Coke to Larry David on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” that sprays once opened.

“STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie” is so charming in the way that it lets its star shine and spotlights the many wonderful things he’s done in his life. More than just being an award-winning actor, he has advocated for more Parkinson’s disease research and started his own foundation. He also appears to be a loving and devoted husband and father who is surrounded by affection and support in every way.

Fox created this documentary, he says, because his world is getting smaller, and he wanted to put something out before it was too late. This is exactly the film this grand star deserved.

Rating: 4 out of 5

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About STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie

At age 16, an undersized army brat landed a part as a 12-year-old on a Canadian television show. Confident he could make it in the U.S., he moved into a tiny apartment in the slums of Beverly Hills. Three years later, he was struggling to scrape by and ready to retreat.

But then came his breakout roles — Alex P. Keaton on the sitcom ‘Family Ties’ and Marty McFly in the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy — and a superstar was born. Michael J. Fox dominated the industry for most of the 1980s and ’90s, but a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease at age 29 threatened to derail his career.

STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie played at the Sundance Film Festival 2023.