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When a car crash leaves him paralyzed from the waist down, alcoholic John Callahan decides to make a change in his life. He begins physical therapy, joins AA, and tries to find a new, more healthy, means of dealing with his various anxieties, including graphic illustration. This leads to him meeting the love of his life, finding a community that supports and understands him, and even getting a job as a cartoonist. Can he keep it together, though? Well, watch the movie and find out.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot is a movie I was excited to see. On top of having an absolutely stellar cast, including Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill and Jack Black, it’s directed by Gus Van Sant, the man behind some of my favorite films. Yes, he’s made a few flops, what director hasn’t, but one thing you can always say about his movies is that they’re terrifically acted, and considerably more sensitive than most hollywood fare. He’s made pictures about murderers, drug addicts and pimps, and somehow found a way to give them all humanity. So I was excited to see what he would do with this source material. And, having finally sat down and watched the movie, I’m happy to say that it’s very satisfying. It’s superbly acted, extremely sensitive in terms of how it deals with addiction, and surprisingly understated. What I mean by that is, movies like this–movies that are based on true stories about people overcoming adversity–are often very sappy and made for the sole purpose of winning actors Oscars. This movie isn’t like that. There isn’t a scene where Joaquin Phoenix mugs for the camera, or gives a big emotional speech. Everything is played very quietly, and very authentically. The best moments are the ones where he’s in group therapy. Everyone in these scenes is so down-to-Earth, unglamorous, and, for lack of a better word, real, that you forget you’re looking at actors. That’s terrific. The movie’s also a lot funnier than you might think. The filmmakers find ways of infusing humor, particularly regarding his cartoons, into the story, and it really works. My audience was laughing their butts off. So between the rock-solid performances, sensitive storytelling and heartfelt humor, I think you’ve got more than enough reasons to go see this movie.
If I have any complaints at all, it’s the fact that the film, in its attempt to be unconventional, and not fall into the OScar-bait trap, is a bit uneven in terms of how it’s structured. It’s told out of order, with certain key details getting revealed perhaps a bit later than they should be, and certain characters who you think will be important, like Jack Black and Rooney Mara, not really showing up as much as you’d think. Rooney Mara, in particular, doesn’t have much personality, or purpose, in this film beyond being Joaquin’s girlfriend, which, coincidentally, she is in real life. But none of this detracts from this movie’s strong qualities. It’s acting, it’s humor and sensitive treatment of addiction are all rock-solid. So don’t hesitate to give it a look.