Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot (2018)
Directed by Gus van Sant
John Callahan has an interesting Wikipedia article, but his life story isn’t told compellingly enough to fill two hours in “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot.” The paraplegic cartoonist was an interesting character, to be sure. Alcoholism, a dark sense of humor…in theory, his biopic certainly sounds like a fun time. But his story doesn’t flesh out enough to make this movie worth your while.
John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) only knew four things about his birth mother…one of them was that she didn’t want him. As a young orphan, Callahan suffered abuses that he’d use as an excuse for his alcoholism later in life. It was this constant drunkenness that led to the car crash which left Callahan paralyzed from the chest down, with only partial use of his hands. This led to him becoming a cartoonist, as a creative outlet to cope with the difficulties. That, along with his AA support group (including his sponsor, played by Jonah Hill), helped Callahan take back control of his life.
The comedic angle falls flat most of the time, but there are some deeply affecting dramatic scenes in the film. For his part, Joaquin Phoenix does a commendable job portraying Callahan, with all his physical and personality quirks. But Oscar-nominee Jonah Hill does not bring his A-game. I’ve already seen him on longlists for Best Supporting Actor nominations, but I’m not buying. It’s not all his fault, of course. Writer/director Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”) worked with two first-time screenwriters to adapt Callahan’s autobiography, but even a trio of writers couldn’t find the right way to tell Callahan’s story. Or maybe it just wasn’t the right story to bring to the big screen. Either way, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” doesn’t get very far in engaging audiences in a story they can care about.