REVIEW: Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot

Don’t worry, I won’t get far into this review before just abbreviating the title of this film, altogether – man, its a whopper.

A paralysed alcoholic begins his journey of recovery when he finds a passion for drawing off-colour newspaper cartoons.

The Joaquin Phoenix renascence roars on with this poetic little sketching of life from a unique perspective. The true story of cartoonist John Callahan is brought to life and dramatized by an incredible performance from Phoenix and exceptional work behind the camera from Gus Van Sant of Good Will Hunting and Milk. Although this film may not be overly remarkable in its ambitions to garner love and acclaim for its pivotal emotional narrative, the performances at play in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot guide this biopic down safe passage of likeable, real-life characters and noticeably powerful emotion.

Edited together similar to The Social Network with the film jumping between important time periods in Callahan’s life,  Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot adopts, what it thinks to be, a more unique route of storytelling. However, the nonlinear narrative employed in this film can at times feel a bit stale in its execution. Leaping between moments in time can make for jarring and confusing story beats and cuts, as some sequences even contradict one another in not such flattering ways. The storytelling in this film may not be terrible by any stretch, but lying in the shadow of much sharper perfectors of nonlinear biopic storytelling like The Social Network forces this film to feel a bit sloppier and slower at times.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is a long film with a long title. The movie can meander heavily at points and never, quite frankly, feel like it is essentially aiming to get to ‘the point’. The film can be so powerful in its emotional undercurrents at times, but without real direction in its story and no identifiable hunger for creating a compelling character study, the movie just falls a little flat in its goal to find an identity.

But lets stop talking about negative itches, because there is, without a doubt, a lot to love about Gus Van Sant’s newest feature.

joaquin-pheonix-as-john-callahan.png
(Amazon Studios 2018)

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is a film built mainly on performances; to really showcase the range of its actors, as no one in the cast shows as much range and incredibleness in their performance than Jonah Hill. Make no mistake, we will get to Joaquin Phoenix soon, but Jonah Hill… man, this might just be my favourite performance from the guy. You know what they say though – comedians are the best at drama and that statement is evident in the range of actors like Steve Carrell, Jim Carrey and a previous collaborator of Van Sant’s, Robin Williams. Again, the Good Will Hunting director works his magic with a famed modern day comedian, as Hill reminds everyone why he’s a two time Oscar nominated actor. To say this may be my favourite performance from Hill is saying a lot, as the guy is heavily enjoyable in almost everything he does, but his portrayal of a recovering alcoholic is exceptionally well-realised. It all has to do with the little mannerisms and characteristics Hill throws into the performance; I mean, Joaquin Phoenix is great and does his Joaquin Phoenix thing perfectly, as per usual, but the fact that Phoenix can be onscreen playing a drunk paraplegic (ultimate Phoenix) and yet Hill upstages him at times, is terribly impressive. So, like I said, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot was built to showcase performance and damn is Jonah Hill a true performer.

Of course, Joaquin Phoenix does extremely well as always, however I don’t even know if its worth discussing how amazing the actor is in this film, as… well… he’s always amazing. It’s basically a given now with a Phoenix performance that it is going to be one of the most engaging performances of whatever year it was released in, and Phoenix as Callahan in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is no exception. I also really have to hand it to Jack Black in this film, who’s appearance makes up two scenes in total but with the latter scene quite possibly appearing as the best scene in the entire film. It’s almost as if Black was hired to play two characters with both contrasting the other to extreme lengths. Genius acting all round.

Now yes, I did leave out Rooney Mara, but not for any bad reasons. She, like her fellow actors, turned out a great performance but her role in the movie was slim and, unlike Black, there was never really a scene featuring her that stood out and therefore, there was not much for me to grasp in terms of praise for her performance. Let’s just say everyone did a great job and they should pat themselves on the back and then whinge because they will all be completely ignored by the 2019 Academy Awards, as the story goes.

What really moved me concerning this movie was the overall theme of forgiveness; forgiving both the world and oneself. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot highlights a man who has made many wrongs in his life, and in an effort to find redemption seeks forgiveness of his peers for the vulgar actions of his past. The film gets extremely touching at times, particularly when the character of Callahan repetitively speaks of his mother, leading to a teary climax surrounding his relationship with her that ultimately, in hindsight, sets the entire tone of the film, evident in the feature’s opening lines.

Right down to the Danny Elfman score, complete with an opening jazz jam, to the brief animations of Callahan’s cartoons, I admittedly really enjoyed Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. This film may not be highly memorable or entirely special in the sea of 2018 releases, but it is still an uplifting joy to watch. If you want to find hope, if you want to find growth, then look no further than Jared Leto method acting as Jonah Hill method acting as Jesus whilst having a conversation with Joaquin Phoenix who’s whole life may just as well be one big method acting stint – we’ll never know.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is a bloody… CRUSADE!!

 

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