Friday, May 26, 2023

Review: Apple TV+’s ‘Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie’ a triumph in face of adversity

By Matt Pascarella

Rated: R

Runtime: 1 Hour, 34 minutes

He was one of the biggest stars of his time. “Family Ties,” “Teen Wolf,” “Back to the Future,” “Doc Hollywood,” plus an abundance of others. At 29, Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He hasn’t let this stop him and has turned this diagnosis into more of a positive, refusing to let this disease crush him or his spirit.

This documentary isn’t cut with friends, family and famous people talking about Fox, but rather an interviewer (who is never on camera) asking Fox questions while he tells his story in his own words along with actor portrayals or footage of Fox from various points in his life.

“Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie” stars Michael J. Fox, Danny Irizarry, Hannah Galway, Sherry Klassen, Darren Zimmer, and Bradley Peters.

Florida, 1990. Fox awakens from a night of drinking with actor Woody Harrelson (Peters) to notice his pinky finger is auto animated. Fox struggles to recall the events of the previous night. Despite Fox’s popularity at this point in his life, he describes himself as being in an acid bath of fear and professional insecurity.

It’s now the present day. Fox gets out of bed, puts on slippers, and brushes his teeth. He sits down to be interviewed. Fox describes himself as a tough individual, who has stuff to do and won’t be slowed down by his disease.

Originally from Canada, Fox came to California to be an actor. He found success relatively quickly, but it was short-lived. By 1982, he was barely surviving; taking jam packets from IHOP restaurants to eat because he had no money – he was living beat to beat.

At 22, Fox got the TV show “Family Ties.” While producers weren’t excited about Fox initially, that would change. Once he found success on “Family Ties” more offers came in. He simultaneously shot “Back to the Future” while also shooting “Family Ties.”

As Fox tells his life story, you get glimpses of him dealing with Parkinson’s today. The disease causes him to fall a lot; and that’s something Fox works very hard to prevent.

“Gravity is real,” says Fox. “Even if you’re falling from my height.”

After the success of “Back to the Future,” Fox was everywhere. While filming “Family Ties,” he met his wife, Tracy Pollan, and they married in 1988.

When he was first diagnosed, he hid it from everyone but his family. He took pills to control the tremors. By not thinking about Parkinson’s, he thought he was hastening its arrival. He started drinking and ran into problems. The media suggested Fox’s popularity was over.

Fox was doing all he could to avoid the fact that he had Parkinson’s. He went back to television, but the stress of a weekly show only exacerbated his symptoms. There was no way out.

When talking about Michael J. Fox, my instinct can be to feel bad for him, but from everything about him that I’ve read and what he says in this documentary, he does not want pity. This documentary really illustrates how hard it can be for Fox to do simple tasks, like walking or brushing his teeth, and while it can be heartbreaking to watch, the fact that Fox continues on, shows how inspiring he truly is. While it’s one thing for Fox to talk about his struggles with Parkinson’s in his books, it’s another thing to physically let the public see his struggles on camera.

Aside from the fact that I’ve been a “Back to the Future” fan for many years, the more I learn about Fox, the more I appreciate him. His positivity is truly something to aspire to. This feel-good documentary might change the lens with which you look at life.

Two thumbs up.

Available on Apple TV+. <

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