In Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far On Foot, Joaquin Phoenix is reunited once again with his To Die For director Gus Van Sant in this quirky, unconventional and heartfelt biopic about the life of controversial cartoonist John Callahan and his struggles with addiction and physical disability. Adapted from Callahan’s best selling memoir of the same name, the film is a return to form for Van Sant whose last film The Sea of Trees sadly proved to be a critical and box office misfire.
Set in the mid 70s and structured in a rather disjointed and non-linear fashion, Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far On Foot offers a tender and painfully honest depiction of a life in tatters, and what it took to get it back on track. After a near-fatal car-crash lands him in a wheelchair for the rest of his days, John Callahan (Phoenix) finds solace in drinking heavily and feeling sorry for himself. Discovering a passion for drawing, despite his severe disability, John soon finds a new lease of when his deeply un-PC cartoons become an overnight hit, first with the local press and then nationally. Things however take a compete turn of the unexpected when he decides to attend a local AA meeting which results in him being given some much needed home truth by its members.
Phoenix is truly outstanding in one of his most challenging roles to date. He offers Callahan as an acerbic, shambolic train-wreck who still manages to keep his wits about him despite everything. For her part, Phoenix’s real life partner Rooney Mara excels yet again as the beautiful and etherial Annu, a Swedish flight-attendant who takes a shine to Callahan while he in his hospital recovering from his injuries.
A barely recognisable Jonah Hill gives, what is undoubtedly, a career defining turn as Callahan’s fantastically camp and acerbic AA sponsor Donny. He offers Donny as a no-nonsense talking upper class dandy who has been to the other side of addiction, bought the T-Shirt and lived to tell the tale. Elsewhere, rock stars Beth Ditto of Gossip fame and Former Sonic Youth Member Kim Gordon shine into two fantastically well judged performances.
Van Sant offers a narrative which espouses the style of its subject matter perfectly. At times episodic, uneven (in a good way) and partly poetic, the film almost looks like the inner monologue of Callahan himself. Van Sant’s genius lies in his ability to take an almost unfilmable narrative and make it his own, not by attempting to change the essence of the story, but by doing exactly the opposite. Callahan’s voice and cartoons can be heard ringing throughout the film and with it, we start to get the full picture of a man who never wanted to be famous or successful, but who still managed to do his own way.
Don’t Worry He Won’t Go Far On Foot is in cinemas from FRIDAY 26th of OCTOBER