Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
dir-scr Gus Van Sant
prd Charles-Marie Anthonioz, Mourad Belkeddar, Steve Golin, Nicolas Lhermitte
with Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black, Tony Greenhand, Beth Ditto, Mark Webber, Ronnie Adrian, Kim Gordon, Udo Kier, Carrie Brownstein, Emilio Rivera
release US 13.Jul.18, UK 26.Oct.18
18/US Amazon 1h54
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot
Misfit addicts: Phoenix and Hill

mara black webber
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot The life story of late cartoonist John Callahan, this film uses his irreverent sense of humour to layer in black comedy amid the big emotions. It's a story about much more than disability and addiction, even if those are the most obvious elements. And writer-director Gus Van Sant beautifully captures a loose sense of West Coast culture as he follows a drunken slacker to his moment of truth.

In Portland, Oregon, John (Phoenix) drinks very heavily, partying with his friends. One night out with new pal Dexter (Black), he ends up paralysed, quadriplegic with only partial use of his arms. So he's certainly not going to give up drinking now. But when he meets the charming Annu (Mara) and starts drawing cartoons, he also starts to get sober with the help of Donny (Hill) and a group of misfit 12-step addicts. This is going to require John to get over his self-pity and confront himself in ways he really doesn't want to.

Van Sant tells this story out of sequence, sliding back and forth in the timeline from Callahan's childhood to his later life, linking events visually and thematically. This is sometimes challenging for the viewer, but it results in a strongly involving story that undercuts the usual dramatic beats of this kind of movie. There's never a moment in which the film wallows either in his injury or his alcoholism, although both are dealt with in profound ways.

Phoenix plays John as a smart, gifted man who only slowly begins to understand that he may have something to say through his cartoon panels, which gain interest locally before moving to national outlets. The sometimes shocking, cleverly subversive nature of the comics is reflected in Phoenix's performance as a man who has no time for sentimentality. Hill gives the other stand-out turn, playing against type as a wealthy gay blond hippie who is flat-out hilarious, and also surprisingly insightful.

The film's abrasive tone echoes Callahan's sense of humour, and the pacing matches the way he speeds recklessly through town in his wheelchair. In a variety of relationships - with Annu and Donny, his personal assistant (Greenhand), the group members - the story speaks to issues of acceptance and regret. While the biggest kick involves the power of forgiveness. Throughout, Van Sant skilfully threads animated versions of Callahan's cartoons to make sure that it's the real man's voice we are hearing.

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 3.Oct.18

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
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© 2018 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall