One of the most heart wrenching events in entertainment is the sudden cessation of a burgeoning career, particularly that of a universally well-liked, talented star. So when movie and TV darling Michael J. Fox, famed for his roles in Family Ties, Spin City, and Back to the Future, publicly announced his Parkinson’s disease diagnosis, the news drove a stake into the hearts of many who suspected the beginning of the end of such a promising career in Hollywood. Director Davis Guggenheim’s illuminating documentary, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, examines Fox’s life, beloved filmography, and ongoing grapple with the debilitating illness he courageously hopes to conquer someday.
Fox himself exclusively narrates this insightful, poignant, funny, and touching documentary, utilizing a combination of scripted structural segments and off-the-cuff interview snippets. He begins at the onset of his trade, reflecting on his childhood in Canada, booking minor roles in television series, then dropping out of high school to move to LA. Interspersed are examples of his Parkinson’s symptoms, showcasing how the disease makes Fox’s daily activities cumbersome. But Fox regularly cuts through these moments with his signature quick wit and impressive comedic timing, delivering layers of deep vulnerability, boyish charm, and shades of that Hollywood prince that took Hollywood by storm in the ’80s.
The documentary paces itself well from that point on, forming a natural progression that follows Fox’s life from his breakout performance in Family Ties to his monumental success at the box office, his eventual realization that his health was in jeopardy, and finally, his growth as a father and Parkinson’s activist. A solemn air of desperation and addiction lingers throughout as Still explores Fox’s dependence on alcohol and medication to stay “still” during the height of his career and hide his symptoms. Still, it never persists longer than it needs to, serving only to portray Fox’s hardships accurately, never to draw pity. Fox ensures this, fighting through the tremors and rigidity to deliver a quip or smirk, offering the audience some reprieve and assurance that everything will be okay. Still also features some expertly crafted narrative interludes, featuring several other actors playing a young Michael throughout his early life and career, allowing the audience to visualize his past successes and low points with some impeccable likenesses and effective editing.
While the project does not offer anything beyond this emotional voyage into the heart and soul of a beloved ’80s icon, it never needs to; Fox’s story is entertaining and intriguing enough to carry the 94-minute runtime, and the spotlight on Parkinson’s disease feels personal and essential. The best part is Fox’s self-awareness and bravery, character traits that turn an otherwise distressing examination of a fading Hollywood star into an uplifting, authentic, and hopeful documentary film about a man trying his best to live with – and overcome – his demons
Still: A Michel J. Fox Movie is now Streaming on Apple TV+