I grew up with Michael J. Fox. Not literally, but certainly, I have followed his career since his early days, from sitcom phenom to full-fledged movie star. I watched and cried when he announced his diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease and hoped with all others that he would and could somehow beat the odds. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie screened early on during SXSW 2023 in the most prominent house at the festival (the Paramount) to a packed auditorium, and by the end, there were few dry eyes in the place. Davis Guggenheim uses a trove of archival audio and video from Fox’s audiobook, television appearances, recorded interviews, and bank of Fox’s films to create a heartfelt bio-pic.
Having dealt with debilitating and crippling health issues, especially in recent years, I went to film hoping for inspiration. I was not disappointed. Most of the audience and I held back tears watching – not so much because of Fox’s illness, but because of Fox’s handling of it. Not only did Fox rally against the disease, but he also reached out to help others, forming a foundation for research to combat it. His story is one of inspiration and hope.
Guggenheim and Fox deliver. Fox, who spent most of his life in front of the camera, had not one but two hugely successful sitcoms (Family Ties and Spin City) while headlining the blockbuster Back to the Future trilogy. Surprisingly, he kept his disease – diagnosed at age 27 – secret for nearly a decade while he continued his busy taping schedules. His wife, actress Tracy Pollan stayed by his side every step of the way, and Fox continued to work – often on multiple projects at a time. As a child, Fox didn’t want to be still. He constantly moved and raced through life into the limelight. Ironically, now he cannot stay still, the disease-causing constant movement and shaking.
Guggenheim’s use of clips of Fox and a double to recreate events in the actor’s life might be strange to some, but I appreciated seeing the old footage and reliving critical moments in his life. Fox is beyond forthcoming about the challenges he experienced early on and more on those still occurring. I was able to ask a question during the Q&A, and his open and candid response moved me and the entire audience.
My personal maxim – “when life gives you shit, fertilize,” made Fox (and the audience) laugh, and his response was classic. I mentioned that life doesn’t give some of us lemons or cherries; “we just get shit,” and Fox, who suffered a fall and a broken arm after spine surgery because of his physical instability, said that he was “out of the lemonade business.” He has his own personal maxims but understands how trying to share them with others can frustrate them.
Still is an intimate and entertaining look at the star’s career, life, family, and battle against the inevitable. Fox continues to inspire others, and he is singularly one of the most real, compassionate, and inspiring people I have ever seen. He even stopped during the Q&A to thank the ASL interpreter for doing her job. I found it a bit disheartening to see how much PD ravages his body, but I watched in admiration at the things he’s accomplished and the efforts he has put in to help others suffering the same plight. Five stars aren’t enough. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is a MUST-see.