Not every celebrity story is worthy of receiving the documentary treatment—many of them feel like simple fluff without much substance. Michael J. Fox’s struggle with a debilitating disease, however, absolutely deserves full feature-length attention. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie examines Fox in his most unfiltered, vulnerable, vanity-free state. Through his own words, this clever documentary traces back Fox’s story to its roots, while grappling with the impossible challenges of surviving day-to-day Parkinson’s Disease.
As a not-tall-enough child, Fox recalls that he could never stay “still” even for a second, and tragically that reflects on his current state. Due to the Parkinson’s Disease—characterized by erratic tremors and reduced facial expression—he requires constant physical therapy, and is prone to bone-breaking accidents that leave him with pins in his body. Perhaps most shocking here is not Fox’s overall condition, but his incredible spirit. He stays light-hearted and always keeps his sense of humor. When he falls in the streets of New York City, he mutters to a passerby, “nice to meet you, you knocked me off my feet!”
Fox takes us on a journey through his early years and rise to fame in Hollywood, including arguably his most famous and iconic role in the form of Marty McFly from Back to the Future. Even as a troublesome teen, Fox always knew he wanted to be acting. His father fully supported him, just as it seemed the only option was to move to Hollywood and drop out of school. A studio apartment in the Beverly Hills slums greeted him, alongside a three-year struggle of going to auditions and living off McDonalds. Eventually, the hard work paid off, as he skirted bankruptcy, pushing hard for an audition on Family Ties.
Nothing was ever handed to Michael J. Fox that he did not rightfully earn, and no part of his story feels phony or pretentious in any way. As he delves into the process of his diagnoses, the feeling of being unable to control one’s own body, meeting his beautiful wife, and struggles with alcoholism, Fox endears himself to us easily with his honesty and charisma. I would have loved to explore even more of the seasoned actor’s filmography overall (Doc Hollywood, Stuart Little, and Homeward Bound!), but that is understandably not the main focus.
Though the movie clocks in at only a mere hour and a half, the precision of editing in clips to display the uniqueness of Fox’s life is masterful. Vampire Weekend’s “Harmony Hall” over the credits is the cherry on top. Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie puts other celeb-docs to shame by being a genuinely great movie. Michael J. Fox maintains his humor and heart only as his Parkinson’s progresses evermore. Do not be defined by one’s struggles, but own them—if that’s not a perfect lesson to leave the viewer with, I don’t know what is.
Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie dives deep into the personal life of a cinema legend when it debuts exclusively to Apple TV+ and in select theaters on Friday, May 12th.