“Actors don’t become actors because they are brimming with self confidence. An actor’s burning ambition is to spend as much time as possible pretending to be somebody else.”Michael J. Fox
I rarely read autobiographies — in part because I don’t believe that being famous automatically gives one a greater insight into the human condition — but one that has stayed with me is Michael J. Fox’s 2002 memoir Lucky Man, written a few years after he went public with his young onset Parkinson’s diagnosis. Twenty years later, Davis Guggenheim’s documentary is a very similar experience, allowing Fox to narrate his life story with the same incurable optimism whilst also showing more vulnerability — there is footage of him falling during physiotherapy, covering bruises with makeup (“Gravity is real, even if you only fall from my height”), whilst interview segments show him struggling at times to speak clearly as he balances the timing of his medication. Whilst Fox narrates, Guggenheim illustrates his rise to fame using thematically relevant scenes from Fox’s work — it is more effective than one might expect, particularly with his breakout sitcom Family Ties. Conversely, with hindsight it is is fascinating to see Fox visibly masking his symptoms in footage from Spin City. His positive tone is mirrored by a light and upbeat score that avoids saccharine sentimentalism. Though Still may hew closely to the stereotypical rise and fall documentary, there is a depth evident the multifaceted title which refers simultaneously to Fox’s inability to remain still as an energetic child, his concealment of his Parkinson’s tremors for seven years, how he has been forced to be still and present in his life, and the fact he is still here. Perhaps most moving is an unguarded moment in which Fox admits the strain he feels in needing to present a positive image as an advocate for those with Parkinson’s, to which his physiotherapist suggests he should not always be holding himself to that public role, “It’s okay not to be Michael J. Fox sometimes”. Still may not cover new ground as a documentary, but its autobiographical nature makes it more personal, elevated by Fox’s grace and good humour.
Disclosure: I know personally at least one person involved in the making of this film.