Still begins by showing the first signs Fox had of his Parkinson’s diagnosis, back in 1990, alone in Florida and scared as to why his finger wouldn’t quit moving. Guggenheim then jumps back to present Fox’s life before this illness, a kid who was smaller than everyone else and found his calling through acting. It’s especially fascinating to learn about Fox’s beginnings, with his father who had complete faith that his son would make it, and when Fox became a struggling actor, selling his furniture for money and saving up jelly packets for food.
But once Fox gets Family Ties, he becomes a star, and after Back to the Future comes his way, he’s launched to an absurd level of superstardom. We see how he filmed both Family Ties and Back to the Future at the same time, the celebrity that went to his head, and how his wife Tracy Pollan helped bring him back down to earth. In showing Fox’s life, Guggenheim recreates these moments through footage of Fox’s TV shows and movies, and through recreations. Guggenheim often tries to blend the two, which works surprisingly well. However, the film’s occasional reliance on the recreations are sometimes awkward, but thankfully, these moments are fairly rare.
But these recreations aren’t all that necessary, since the best parts of Still are when Fox and Guggenheim are simply talking about Fox’s life, his struggles with his disease, and his look back at his life. We see just how common it is for Fox to fall and hurt himself, as he’ll usually show up with some new injury or bruise. Yet, Fox never talks about being in pain until Guggeneheim asks him directly about it. Fox states that he’s always in pain, but it’s a sign of his resilience, and his love of making others happy, that seemingly keeps Fox from making the pain the focus of his life.
Guggenheim uses Still to show that even decades after his diagnosis, Fox is the same guy many of us grew up loving, still as witty and fun to watch. Guggenheim will counter some great clip of Fox improvising on the set of Family Ties with an interview clip now where he’s just as hilarious. Guggenheim makes sure to never make this a film about a disease, but rather, about the impressive life and career that Fox has had—Parkinson’s disease just happens to be a part of that.
Fox is generous and open with himself, diving into his failures as a father and husband, his issues with alcoholism, and his lifestyle at the height of his career that some might find unsavory. Guggenheim, somewhat understandably, never focuses too much on the negative connotations that Fox is throwing down. However, for a documentary that is attempting to give us a fully fleshed-out look at Fox’s past, present, and where he might go in the future, it does seem strange to mostly gloss over the darker sides of Fox’s life. Fox seems more than willing to dive into the darkness, but Guggenheim would rather show the positive aspects of his subject and friend.
But for all the avoiding of darker topics, and questionable recreations of the past, Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie succeeds because of Fox, and it’s hard to not get wrapped up in appreciation for this man, and the nostalgia for all the roles that showed Fox has always been an engaging and wonderful performer. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie can be a bit standard as far as biographical documentaries go, but when the subject is someone as much to watch as Fox is, it’s hard to care too much about the form when the content is so captivating.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie debuted at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It will be coming to Apple TV+ soon.