You would be hard pressed to find a child of the ’80s and ’90s that doesn’t have some sort of nostalgic memory tied to the name Michael J. Fox. His films and performances are legendary, and the cultural impact that came from his strings of successes could only be compared to that of John Travolta in the late ’70s.
Many people were heartbroken when they found out that Fox had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, yet until now, many still do not know the full scale of the affliction and its impact on both Fox and his career in show-business. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie tries to remedy this.
At this point it bears telling that the film’s director Davis Guggenheim could literally have made a documentary about almost anybody he wanted to. He had already made short projects for one sitting (Biden) and one former president (Obama), as well as a string of stuff for the Democratic National Convention. Had he just wanted to make a film to premiere at Sundance, he could easily have done so by pulling his strings within the Democratic party. We could just as easily be seeing a film about Trump’s last days in the white house or a documentary about AOC. Instead, Guggenheim chose to take an alternative route, and tell the candid yet heart-warming story of Michael J. Fox and his struggles coming to terms with his diagnosis and living with the disease. The result is an instant film classic.
For Still, Guggenheim makes use of a genre bending mix of archival footage and cinematic recreations and re-enactments to churn out a film that feels more like a biopic than an actual documentary. By splicing in relevant lines of dialogue from the tv shows and movies in Fox’s back catalog, Guggenheim is able to create a unique viewing experience that capitalizes on its audiences nostalgic tendencies, and just sucks you in from beginning to end. It is a film that knows its viewers just as well as it knows its subject, and for this reason, it is able to deliver in ways that most biographical documentaries simply can not.
However, Guggenheim’s bag of technical tricks could have easily turned into technical trappings were it not for the engaging subject/interviewer relationship of Fox and Guggenheim. Michael, always a boy at heart, seems reluctant to leave character, and cares more about getting a laugh than he does about his own personal wellbeing. Guggenheim is the perfect counterbalance to Fox in that his delicate yet prodding questions help to slowly chip away at the walls that Fox has built up, and allow a more vulnerable and honest person to come through.
After viewing this film, it is impossible to not fall further in love with Fox. We are brought face to face with many of his flaws and shortcomings, and yet we love him even more for them. It is a vulnerable and triumphant portrayal of a man who has continued to persevere in the midst of an illness that has for so long threatened both his life and his legacy. It is a stunning technical achievement in documentary filmmaking that will be studied and dissected by documentary filmmakers for generations to come.