BY RUBI DEL RÍO-HERRERA
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot is based on cartoonist John Callahan’s autobiography of the same name. Directed by Gus Van Sant, who’s known for indie films such as My Own Private Idaho (1991) and Drugstore Cowboy (1989), we get what feels like an indie/documentary-style film that doesn’t quite reach the level to which it aspires. Van Sant’s style of storytelling focuses on the humanistic side of life; the ordinary individual struggling with inner demons while trying to find their way through life.
The film starts out promising enough. Van Sant utilizes tight close up shots, “rack focus” (going in and out of focus) and that grainy look that makes you think he is actually shooting on film. This gives the audience that sense of his indie/documentary style, but as the film progresses and our protagonist begins to evolve, the film takes a turn into the long, boring fare of the type you might find in your dad’s 1970s VHS collection. I have to say though that the writing, the dialogue, and the cast of actors are superb.
Joaquin Phoenix as Callahan plays the quadriplegic cartoonist flawlessly. Phoenix takes his method acting to a new level, diving into the role with such finesse that you forget the actor is bipedal. But Van Sant must have lost interest in his own film somewhere along the way, and Phoenix loses some of his finesse when his character finally reaches an emotional climax towards the end of the film. Phoenix falls completely flat, as John finally understands the reason for his drinking. Flat to the point that I was unable to connect with his performance at that point.
It’s a shame because right around then, Jonah Hill who plays Donnie, a rich homosexual alcoholic and John’s sponsor, gives a performance that has never before been seen in Hill. Jonah reaches deep for this scene, when he tells John why he stopped drinking. It is at this moment that the audience finally gets a feel for his character that has been one dimensional right up to this point. It is a breath of fresh air to know that Jonah Hill’s acting has matured and he has finally outgrown his former dumb-witted characters.
The movie doesn’t lack for intrigue. If you like humanistic films, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot is one you’ll enjoy: the true story of John Callahan, Portland-based musician and cartoonist who overcame his drinking after his life altering experience that left him paralyzed and unable to fend for himself.
Jack Black plays Dexter; His performance is mediocre at best. His character, though important to the storyline, is forgettable. Rooney Mara plays Annu, a character who’s also forgettable, as Van Sant breezes through John’s life in snippets. The remainder of the cast includes Udo Kier as Hans, Ronnie Adrien as Martingale, and Kim Gordon (bassist and singer for the rock group Sonic Youth) as Corky. Beth Ditto as Reba, despite minimal lines, gives the best performance of the bunch.
My only real dislikes here are that the running time is just too long, and you lose interest near the end.
3 of 5 stars