Like many of us who bridge the gap between the digital and non-digital age, it’s likely that you’ve got one foot contentedly in each, and that films like Teen Wolf, Doc Hollywood and Back to the Future parts I to III have been part of that process. While in North America, Michael J. Fox was a huge star on the back of Family Ties, an American sitcom from the 80s, he skated into my world with the Back to the Future franchise, and after that Spin City from the late 90s. He’s always resonated as an exciting actor and person, packed full of charisma, energy and that most important factor in the entertainment world – authentic likeability.
When Michael J. Fox announced in 1998 that he had Parkinson’s disease, and had been dealing with the consequences of it since 1991, it was a genuine shock because pre-internet (even though the web was definitely around and I was on it) wasn’t an era of social media and we found the majority of news came through magazines and TV shows, and even then I don’t think British TV was that au fait with global entertainment news. Unless you had Sky, which barely anyone did.
This wasn’t to say we were cut off from the future though, this was coming, but when you don’t know much about Parkinson’s, and you can only go from what you’re told, and the fact that Fox was only 29, it seemed inconceivable that this superstar of the big and small screen could have something seemingly incurable but continue to work so effectively and do what he loved, acting and entertaining the masses with the likes of Spin City, Mars Attacks!, The American President and the underrated The Frighteners.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is a celebration and reflection of all these things and thoughts, there’s no doubt he’s being doing stellar real-life work with his Foundation that’s dedicated to finding a cure for Parkinson’s but we don’t delve as deeply into that side of his affairs, although it’s definitely not ignored and that real impact is here in his own words (both negatives and positives). Yet, much like a Fox film, he wants this documentary to be the story of his life, whilst he can tell it himself, and a joyful reminder of his epic talent, from someone who maybe was never expected to be so huge, in a global sense.
Directed by Davis Guggenheim, the filmmaker and Fox offer us a truly open, honest, direct, and captivating documentary that combines a direct one-on-one interview with the man, alongside archival and scripted reconstructions, which are expertly interweaved to give us the story of his life to this point. At numerous points, it quite literally merges his film characters and scenes, and the real story he shares, and it’s uncanny how some quotes or thoughts actually overlap, and the editing team have done an outstanding job to make this happen.
From his younger days, to the truth of how he’s always been running from then to now (even when he shouldn’t), through the TV and film career, right across those early days of not admitting to himself over what was happening with his diagnose, and then into the reality, everything is here and on show. But it’s never too self-obsessed or fake, and that sincerity becomes known when he speaks about meeting his wife, Tracy Pollan, and their relationship, and how she arrived in his life exactly when he needed it most. It was time to decide to stay and stop, rather than always running from life, and with that sentiment I resonated.
Deeply likeable and funny with all the energy of Michael J. Fox himself, this is a story to embrace and a life to celebrate which never hides from the reality but keeps the feel-good as its main focus, and observes his resilience to get the best out of his life now, even when he’s in genuine physical pain. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie is a purposeful, positive reminder to everyone to try and live in the moment, instead of always looking to what’s next because right here, right now? That’s worth celebrating.
Looking forward to seeing this one. I agree with you on The Frighteners. Been a long time since I saw it but I remember it as being way good.
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Yeah, this is an interesting documentary, and so much comes down to his involvement, it’s cleverly put together to.
I love The Frighteners, used to watch it quite a lot, think it deserves more recognition really!
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