Movie Review: Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie

This insightful documentary is shaped by, but not defined by, the actor's life with Parkinson's disease.


The deft documentary “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” is not about Parkinson’s disease.

It’s about the life of the actor, from his rambunctious childhood through his ’80s superstardom and beyond. His life story is not about Parkinson’s disease, either — both the film and the personal story are rather shaped and changed by Parkinson’s. The disease is not the whole story; it’s merely the circumstance.

Fox, who is forthright and funny in extended conversations, narrates passages from his memoirs while editors weave backstage and on-screen footage of the actor as a young man. At times, “Still” demonstrates the potential for a new and more satisfying variety of biopics; with all the footage we have of famous people in the modern era, why bother to dramatize? Just get very inventive in the cutting room and you have a biography.

The beats of stardom are interesting, if not surprising — the wing-and-a-prayer move to Los Angeles, the desperation before the big break, the critical downfall. It’s a familiar tale, if one made more fascinating by how ubiquitous its subject was to Gen-Xers and older Millennials.

Inevitably, though, “Still” continues to weave its way back to the life-changing diagnosis that altered the course of Fox’s career. The film is at its most intriguing when Parkinson’s presents itself as an intrusion in the natural course of filming; at multiple points, Fox explains that he’s been to the hospital as a result of a fall. It’s a common occurrence for Parkinson’s patients that Fox brushes off, even as he points out where pins have been inserted into his fractured bones.

The climax, as it is, surrounds Fox’s decision to accept and publicly acknowledge his disease. Footage from the ’90s sitcom “Spin City” shows the physical contortions the actor used, in plain view of a nationwide audience, to continue masking his pain.

In this, too, there’s ambiguity. When the filmmaker — documentarian Davis Guggenheim, of “He Named Me Malala” and “An Inconvenient Truth” — asks if there was relief associated with going public, Fox isn’t sure. It comes too close to making the life story about a disease, and that’s not the goal. It’s an intriguing and subtle distinction and one the film mirrors admirably.

My Rating: 8/10

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” will be available via Apple TV+ beginning May 12.

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