I can’t claim to be a fan of John Callahan’s cartoons. Only because I’ve never read his sketches. Though taking a minute to look at a few online to see if any of his more famous ones have cropped up once or twice and I never knew they were his, but nothing. Still, the dude definitely had a dark sense of humor and if there’s anything I like in this world, it’s a dark sense of humor.
The story is about the famous cartoonist, John Callahan who became a cartoonist after becoming a quadriplegic, finding humor in his new life bound in a wheelchair with his girlfriend and new friends.
Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Joaquin Phoenix (YOU WERE NEVER REALLY HERE , IRRATIONAL MAN , and the upcoming THE SISTERS BROTHERS ), Jonah Hill (LEGO BATMAN , WAR DOGS , and upcoming films THE BEACH BUM  and THE LEGO MOVIE 2: THE SECOND PART ), Rooney Mara (A GHOST STORY , LION , and CAROL ), Jack Black (JUMANJI 2 , KUNG FU PANDA 3 , GOOSEBUMPS , and upcoming films THE HOUSE WITH A CLOCK IN ITS WALLS  and JUMANJI 3 ), and Udo Kier (AMERICAN ANIMALS , DOWNSIZING , and upcoming films AMERICAN EXIT  and DRAGGED ACROSS CONCRETE ).
Now for the crew. Writing, directing, and co-editing is Gus Van Sant, known for PROMISED LAND (2012) and GOOD WILL HUNTING (1997). Composing the score is Danny Elfman, known for FIFTY SHADES FREED (2018), TULIP FEVER (2017), THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN (2016), THE END OF THE TOUR (2015), CORALINE (2009), THE KINGDOM (2007), CORPSE BRIDE (2005), and upcoming films THE GRINCH (2018) and DUMBO (2019). The cinematographer is Christopher Blauvelt, known for CERTAIN WOMEN (2016). Finally, Van Sant’s co-editor is David Marks, making his feature film debut. Congrats, sir.
Overall, I love Phoenix, I think he’s a great actor and has proven to be quite diverse in his filmography. Beyond that, looks like we got some great talent both on and off screen, so I think this is going to be a pretty good movie.
This is my honest opinion of: DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT
Set in the 1970’s. John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) is an alcoholic, and thanks to a night of heavy partying and drinking, and getting in a car with an equally drunk man, he is now a quadriplegic. Despite his condition, he didn’t stop drinking, until he decided to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. There, he met Donnie (Jonah Hill), an unconventional AA sponsor who helps him get through his alcoholism, finds romance in the Swedish beauty, Annu (Rooney Mara), and is eventually inspired by his own condition to draw cartoons with black humor depicting his condition.
I love this movie. However, I don’t recommend drinking beforehand. You’re going to feel incredibly shitty about yourself. And yes, I am speaking through experience. If I had brought my double Jack and coke into the theater with me, I would have likely not finished it. But it’s a great movie.
First off, yes, this is a fantastic performance from Phoenix. I may say that it’s weird that this forty year old man is playing a man who is supposed to be in his twenties, as Callahan was twenty-one at the time of his accident, and Phoenix does not look the part. With that said, that doesn’t deter him from delivering a very heartfelt performance full of anguish, humor, depression, fun, and self-realization.
But as good as Phoenix is, two actors particularly stand out, and that would be Jack Black and Jonah Hill. At first glance, Black’s performance as Dexter may not be dramatically different from any other role that he’s played in the past. The fun-loving, irresponsible goof is sort of his shtick. With that said, if there was a way to do his shtick and crank it up to ten, then he nails it. He’s not in the movie much, to be fair, but in his intro scene, there is an ominous air about what’s going to happen and you know that this toxic relationship is going to result in nothing good, which is ultimately doesn’t. But when he makes his reappearance during John’s quest of extending forgiveness to those that he feels that have wronged him. Dexter is so… human. Perfectly capturing that level of uncertainty, that rush of sheer guilt, the split-second consideration to run away in fear, and even during his explanation of his actions, his simple lines of, “I thought about reaching out to you, but I wouldn’t know what to say,” felt so genuine that you can tell this is something he’s wrestled with for a long time. Black doesn’t often take dramatic roles like this, but he should consider it more often.
And Hill… by God, this might be my favorite performance he’s ever given. Not only is he near-unrecognizable, sporting long blond hair and a facial hair, but he steals the show as Donnie. At first, the concept of him playing a homosexual person made me incredibly leery of what he would bring it. And while he is certainly flamboyant, it’s not cartoonishly over the top. He plays it realistically. Donnie is fun, funny, compassionate, but isn’t afraid to say the hard things that someone in his little AA meetings may not want to hear, particularly to John. He obviously has his own demons that he’s fighting with, but seems to be okay with where his life is going. It’s about the best performance I’ve ever seen out of Hill. You can quote me on that.
I remember one review stating that the movie bounces too much from one period of time in John’s life to another without any particular rhyme or reason. While I find it difficult to argue that point, I will argue that the movie is so well-directed that I was never confused as to which time period I was in. And I may also argue that some of the jumps in time are connected thematically. Early on in the movie, we jump between John making a joke about the only three things that he knew about his biological mother, to when he might have first said it in a lamenting kind of way. I don’t know, I kind of like this touch, taking something tragic and turning it on its side for a laugh. That’s a special kind of bravery that only makes me admire Callahan even more. Lord knows I’ve not been able to do that for my own adoption, but I guess that’s a conversation for another time. Point is, I liked how the time jumps were never confusing and it was even better without the use of subtitled time codes and dates. Of course, Van Sant likely knew what with the amount of jumping he’d do, time codes and dates would just get annoying. Either that, or he’s such a damn good director that he never felt the need to include them at all.
Are there any negatives that I might have? Maybe a couple of nitpicks here and there.
As previously mentioned, Callahan was twenty-one when he got into that car accident and Phoenix is no spring chicken. Not saying he’s not a good-looking dude, but he’s not in his twenties. And maybe I thought Rooney Mara as Annu didn’t have the biggest impact on the story, despite a solid performance and convincing accent out of Mara herself. I don’t know, she just wasn’t my favorite inclusion in the story. Not a bad one, just not the most standout.
Overall, this movie is so good and I admit to getting really emotional in some parts and full-on cried, if I remember correctly. It’s inspirational, it’s wholly engaging, has a tremendous amount of heart, both the drama and comedy shine brightly, and delivering some of the best performances out of some really unlikely actors. I say that this comes as a high recommendation. Drop what you’re doing and go see this, especially if you’re a fan of the cast. John Callahan may not get far on foot, but he goes miles with your heart.
My honest rating for DON’T WORRY, HE WON’T GET FAR ON FOOT: 5/5
This week’s reviews:
- HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA 3: SUMMER VACATION
- SORRY TO BOTHER YOU
- EIGHTH GRADE
- A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
Next week’s reviews:
- THE EQUALIZER 2
- MAMMA MIA! HERE WE GO AGAIN
- UNFRIENDED: DARK WEB
- PRINCESS MONONOKE (1997)