This Is a Movie Review: In ‘Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,’ Joaquin Phoenix is a Recovering Alcoholic Quadriplegic, And Jonah Hill is There to Help Him Out

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CREDIT: Scott Patrick Green, Courtesy of Amazon Studios

This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2018.

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black, Mark Webber, Udo Kier, Kim Gordon, Beth Ditto, Carrie Brownstein

Director: Gus van Sant

Running Time: 113 Minutes

Rating: R for General Alcoholic Behavior, And Maintaining a Sexual Appetite Even When Your Body Can’t Move Freely

Release Date: July 13, 2018 (Limited)

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, based on John Callahan’s memoir of the same name, stars Joaquin Phoenix as Callahan, a recently paralyzed recovering alcoholic who discovers a passion for and makes a career out of wry, off-color cartoons. His moment of rock bottom could not be more dramatic, as an all-night session of non-stop partying ends in a terrible car crash that renders him a quadriplegic. There is plenty to Callahan’s story, but for my money, Don’t Worry is really about Jonah Hill’s weirdly transfixing performance as Donnie, John’s AA sponsor.

Hill was on hand for an interview after the screening I went to, where it was noted that Donnie’s homosexuality was probably the least interesting thing about him, and not even all that noticeable. While Donnie is certainly well-rounded enough to not be defined by his sexual orientation, that orientation is in fact clear eno9ugh. Although, the possibility that a straight man could be as fey and as much of an aesthete as Hill plays Donnie is plenty intriguing. He is an inspiration for everyone to be themselves. It is a lesson that John takes to heart. Extreme trauma is a roadblock that is always lurking; if you survive it, you shouldn’t let it stop you from discovering who you are.

Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is Recommended If You Like: 50/50, ’70s Style and Interior Decorating

Grade: 3 out of 5 Motorized Wheelchairs

This Is a Movie Review: ‘A Ghost Story’ Has Intriguing Metaphysical Ideas But Mostly Just Tests My Patience

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This review was originally posted on News Cult in July 2017.

Starring: Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck

Director: David Lowery

Running Time: 87 Minutes

Rating: R for the Cause of Death (Though Most of the Content is Quite Mild)

Release Date: July 7, 2017 (Limited)

If you have heard of David Lowery’s A Ghost Story in passing, chances are you know one of two things about it: 1) the titular ghost is rendered by someone wearing a bedsheet with cutout eyeholes, and 2) Rooney Mara eats an entire pie for about 10 minutes straight. The former sounds dumb but is actually kind of charming, while the latter sounds like an admirable bit of anti-cinema but is actually representative of everything wrong with this movie.

The setup is notably (perhaps fascinatingly) bare-bones: a young couple, presumably married, listed in the credits as “M” (Rooney Mara) and “C” (Casey Affleck), move into an idyllic suburban house. C dies in a car accident and then awakens in the morgue as the sheet-ghost. He returns home and meets another sheet-ghost next door. He keeps an eye on M and occasionally throws some books off the shelf. She eventually moves out, presumably due to grief or maybe because of the supernatural goings-on (hardly anything is concretely explained). He sticks around and meets the new residents, haunting them a bit but mostly just observing them. Ultimately Lowery makes it clear that his conception of ghosts is not bound by the normal rules of time, as a temporal loop allows C to experience anew his and M’s entire relationship, with a few detours along the way.

A Ghost Story has an interesting metaphysical perspective, with its version of the afterlife steeped in feeling as much as ideas. It offers some rewards if you meditate over it, but actually watching it is a slog. The dialogue is sparse, and the action leads nowhere, which is not necessarily a problem if the aim is to be sensuously experiential. And in fairness, Andrew Droz Palermo’s cinematography is pretty to look at, but not so extraordinary that it can justify a movie that mostly just stands still. A film’s purpose does not need to be obvious, but it is preferable if it feels like something more significant than “we just felt like it.”

A Ghost Story is Recommended If You Like: Endlessly Ruminating

Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Pies

This Is a (Quickie) Movie Review: Carol

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carol

“We’re not ugly people,” Carol Aird pleadingly, but assuredly, insists to her husband during a custody fight that threatens to turn nasty. Carol is a thoroughly humanistic examination of the affair between a shopgirl and a housewife in 1952 New York, and the men in their life who struggle to understand them. It is about identity: the internal challenges to find your own and the external challenges to live it out. It mostly keeps it cool, in a manner that viewers who are not already fully attuned to director Todd Haynes’ restrained style might struggle to fully embrace. But when Cate Blanchett delivers the “ugly people” emphasis, Carol finds the winner’s circle.