Mini-Review: Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot chronicles the life of irreverent cartoonist John Callahan as he struggles to give up alcohol and accept his unfortunate situation after a drunken car crash lands him in a wheelchair. Adapted for the screen and directed by Gus Van Sant, this biopic (based upon Callahan's memoir of the same name) is littered with great performances, affecting sequences, and inspirational pep.
Gus Van Sant has crafted an unwieldy portrait of John Callahan that is as crudely drawn, wholly entertaining, and potentially as divisive as Callahan's own body of work. To other writer/directors, this may come across as a backhanded compliment, but I mean this in the best possible sense. Van Sant imbues the film with a loose 70s feel that radiates with carefree charisma and bright lit sunshine. Even when it appears like he's just futzing around visually, there's a feeling of purpose or creative intent that lurks just below the surface.
Narratively, its biggest flaw is how it jumps forward and backward in time, which can become somewhat hard to follow, especially when juxtaposing Callahan in Alcoholics Anonymous against him being very much off the proverbial water-wagon. The only way to follow the narrative leaps throughout time are by paying close attention to the wardrobe, facial hair and hair stylings of Callahan (played by Joachim Phoenix) and company.
Normally, this kind of anti-spoonfeeding would be applauded, but it doesn't always mesh here. When it works, it works well, but when it doesn't land, it stumbles and falls flat on its face like a drunkard — which may be the point Van Sant is trying to make. If anything, the narrative device had me wondering if a linear version would've played just as well, but after careful consideration, I think that it'd soften some of the comedic and emotional blows that the time jumps manage to deliver, some of which hit with surprising force.
That being said, the sparkling quality of this film lies solely on its performances, and Callahan's story is brought into another plane of existence with a phenomenal cast of seasoned veterans. At the forefront, Joachim Phoenix delivers another oddly compelling character rendering that keeps the film grounded to its emotional core; however, the supporting performances of Jack Black and (more notably) Jonah Hill steal the show, with the more minor performances of Udo Kier, Rooney Mara, Beth Ditto and Sonic Youth's Kim Gordan filling in the gaps with sturdy effort.
Between Phoenix, Black and Hill’s performances there's a lot to latch onto here. Each of them continue to flex their versatility and prove their place amongst the greatest American actors working today. To see them interact with and feed off one another is truly a joy, particularly Hill, whose work here ranks amongst his absolute best. There's potential for both Phoenix and Hill to get a nomination for the work they put in here, and as far as supporting performances go, Hill's got it in the bag.
While the diaglogue can come off a bit preachy, that's just how AA is to an extent, and part of its chief lessons is to hear the message, not the messenger. It's a little unnecessarily long, but its filled with wisdom and a boost of inspiration that I think everyone should bask in at least once.
Rating: 4 electric wheelchairs outta 5.
What did you think of the film? Did the jumps in time work for you? Was this one of the best Jonah Hill performances? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!