Davis Guggenheim’s Revealing Documentary Shines Spotlight on Hollywood Legend Michael J. Fox
"I'm not pathetic," Hollywood actor and activist Michael J. Fox states emphatically early on in the intimate, uplifting, and often humorous documentary about his life. His declaration, "I've got stuff going on. I'm a tough son of a bitch,” sets the tone for the film. A kaleidoscopic journey that combines interviews, dramatizations, carefully curated film and TV clips, family footage, and narrated biography, the documentary validates Fox's claim beyond any doubt.
Having soared to stardom in his early twenties, Fox found himself in his thirties grappling with the harsh reality of a Parkinson's disease diagnosis – a condition he had associated only with older people. As Fox candidly remarks, “I was not someone who was supposed to get this.” Yet, in this forthright portrayal by Davis Guggenheim, known for his Oscar-winning "An Inconvenient Truth" and the inspiring "He Named Me Malala," Fox sees his diagnosis not as a tragic end but a transformative beginning.
As a restless child, Michael Fox (the "J" was added later for his acting career) was always on the move. This restless energy helped him land teenage roles in TV shows like "Leo and Me" in the 1970s, but it was his character Alex P. Keaton in "Family Ties" during the early 1980s that truly put him in the spotlight. Reflecting on his whirlwind success, Fox admits, "I was king of the world, [but just] playing a part."
In the present-day interviews, Fox exhibits his characteristic self-deprecation and sharp wit while discussing his acting career and the personal challenges he has faced due to his condition. Clips from lesser-known films such as 1993's "The Concierge" (AKA "For Love or Money") and the TV hit "Spin City" serve to illustrate how Fox managed to conceal his tremors on camera.
However, the heart of the documentary lies in its portrayal of Fox's family life, particularly his enduring marriage to actor Tracy Pollan. Their bond, described by Fox as providing "clarity," presents a glimpse into a profound love story, a testament to their resilience and mutual support. While Parkinson’s symptoms may give the impression that Fox is perpetually in motion, his life with Pollan and their children seems to provide a sense of stillness that he didn't have before.
Guggenheim's unguarded portrait of Fox, reflecting on a life lived with grit, humor, and an unwavering determination, is not just a tribute to a Hollywood legend but an inspiring tale of resilience and love that triumphs over adversity.