Rob Reviews "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot"
On a certain level, I thought “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” would get a release much later in the year than mid-summer. Gus Van Sant’s latest offering has all of the trappings of an awards bait kind of film with an all-star cast, a super serious subject matter, and a story that is based on actual events. This kind of film tends to make me shy away from it due to their history of pandering to awards voters, but after checking out the trailer, I had a good measure of interest.
Based on his autobiography, John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) spends most of his younger and young adult years in what Robin Williams once referred to as a “liquid medium”. After tragedy strikes and leaves him paralyzed from the chest down, Callahan travels a road of self-discovery through rehab and therapy that helps him find his artistic voice and leads him to a second go at life as a cartoonist. Along this journey, he finds solace in his Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, Donnie (Jonah Hill), love through a special lady in Annu (Rooney Mara), a strange kind of support through his attendant, Tim (Tony Greenhand), and a group of people that Donnie also sponsors.
If I were to describe this film in one word, that word would simply be… powerful. Phoenix has thoroughly impressed me for the second time this year after “You Were Never Really Here,” portraying Callahan as a reckless addict whose rock bottom becomes a vicious cycle that takes longer than just enrolling in a twelve-step program to truly become ingrained in his life. His multiple levels of issues are put on display in a way that is heart wrenching and pulls no punches. For those familiar with his controversial cartoons displayed in newspapers and magazines across the country, there is a deeper understanding of where some of the darkness that he puts to page comes from as this story unfolds.
And it doesn’t stop there. This cast is nothing short of stellar with Hill doing what I feel is the best work of his career so far, Jack Black makes an appearance that is brief but pivotal at more than one point, and the other members of his group of “piglets” in Beth Ditto, Mark Webber, Ronnie Adrian, Kim Gordan, and one of my personal favorites in Udo Kier (who also is in his second great film of the year after “American Animals”) do work like a veteran ensemble that has been together since the beginning. I was simply blown away by each and every person involved here. Mara (Phoenix’s real-life girlfriend) uses her connection with her leading man to truly sell the love that both Annu and Callahan shared wonderfully to give an even richer emotion to the power his story already packs.
In my comments to our vendor after the screening, I wrote that I would not be shocked in any way if “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is in multiple Top Ten discussions at the end of the year and could cause some struggles for films that are released in the fourth quarter. With some of the other amazing films I have seen this summer, I think the race is officially ON.