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Intimate, Entertaining “Still” Lets Michael J. Fox Share His Story in His Own Words

9 May

There’s a scene in Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, where the actor best known for his performances as Alex P. Keaton and Marty McFly in Family Ties and the Back to the Future trilogy acknowledges the heavy weight of responsibility that comes with being such a beloved public figure. “I don’t want to fuck it up,” he says.

When a celebrity allows a filmmaker to tell their life story in a documentary, as so many have done in recent years, that’s probably a big worry. We’ve all watched plenty of Behind the Music episodes, and we’ve seen plenty of sympathetic clip-fests about actors, sports figures, politicians, and other famous folks. Often, they’re driven by vanity or an attempt to rehabilitate a damaged reputation. Sometimes it’s purely a nostalgia trip. Either way, at this point, we know the tropes that many of these films follow all too well. Every now and then, one rises above the rest (Gleason and Amy are two of the better examples), but it’s easy to be cynical since so many of these films adhere to a conventional format.

I’d imagine Fox hesitated before he allowed a movie to be made about his own life. After all, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease when he was just 29 years old, at the peak of his career. Since then, he hasn’t sought out pity. Rather, he’s conducted himself with grit and grace, applying his well known name and his abundant optimism to fundraising campaigns and other efforts that will help others like him who have Parkinson’s. 

A less skilled filmmaker would probably seize on the obvious storyline, portraying Fox’s fast rise to fame via a greatest-hits collection of film and TV clips, and then cover his slow decline from the disease, with a coda to contribute funds to support the foundation that bears his name. As Fox himself says in the film, “That’s boring.”

Clearly, he’s not the only person who thought so, and thank God for that. 

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