Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot

★★★½ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

Many films involving disabled people follow many of the same clichés: able-bodied person is "struck in their prime" & becomes disabled, feels sorry for himself, meets an able-bodied person who gives them meaning to their life, & happy ever after. These films are made with an ableist idea of disability, which is very far off from what disability actually is.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot does use some of these clichés & is seen through an able-bodied eye, but it manages to get past many of the clichés & becomes a well-acted comedy-drama. Based on the 1989 autobiography Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot by John Callahan, & set in the 1970s & 1980s, the film follows John Callahan (played by Joaquin Phoenix), a young alcoholic from Oregon. He lives in Los Angeles, & parties a lot & way too hard.

After a day & night of drinking, John & his new friend, Dexter (played by Jack Black), go bar-hopping. Dexter, who is also drunk, drives the car & crashes into a lightpole. While Dexter is unscathed, John is now a quadriplegic. At the hospital recovering from the accident, John meets Annu (played by Rooney Mara), who is his physical therapist, who eventually falls in love with John.

John decides to try to overcome his alcoholism, & starts to going to AA meetings led by Donnie Green (played by Jonah Hill), an openly-gay, trust-fund Christian, who eventually sponsors John.

Frustrated with his disability, John fuels his frustration into cartoons. These cartoons are very politically incorrect, managing to offend many, but others admire his cartoons. But the road to overcoming his alcoholism will be one of his hardest battles.

The cast is amazing. Joaquin Phoenix shows once again that he is one of the best actors right now. He has such emotional range: funny one moment, sad the next. And Jonah Hill gives one of his best performances. His presence is one that sticks long after the film ends.

Gus Van Sant's direction is great. Although Van Sant's vision is an ableist one, & that does bring the film down a bit, he does manage to balance the tonal shifts very well. After a few clunkers, this is a step in the right direction for Van Sant.

The screenplay by Gus Van Sant, John Callahan, Jack Gibson & William Andrew Eatman is very good. Although the plot & structure is a bit clichéd, & it doesn't give much thought on his disability as it should, the dialogue & characters are what keep the screenplay from being overly formulaic.

And Christopher Blauvelt's cinematography is excellent. Featuring constant slow pans & slow zooms, Blauvelt's camerawork adds a great documentary feel to the film.

This is a good biopic. Although it is a bit ableist & formulaic, the great performances & stunning cinematography save the film.

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Sunday, July 22, 2018. It is currently in 5 theaters in the Detroit area: the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI; The Maple Theater in Bloomfield Township, MI; the Emagine Novi in Novi, MI; the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, MI; & the Historic Howell Theater in Howell, MI. Its runtime is 114 minutes, & it is rated R for language throughout, sexual content, some nudity & alcohol abuse.

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