don't worry, he won't get far on foot
DIRECTOR: gus van sant (good will hunting, milk, the sea of trees)
STARRING: joaquin phoenix, jonah hill, rooney mara, and jack black
REVIEWER: lyall carter
After nearly dying in a car accident, the last thing Oregon slacker John Callahan intends to do is give up alcohol. Encouraged by his girlfriend and a charismatic sponsor, Callahan reluctantly enters a treatment program and discovers that he has a knack for drawing. The budding artist soon finds himself with a new lease on life when his edgy and irreverent newspaper cartoons gain a national and devoted following.
Joaquin Phoenix would have to be the most unlucky actor in Hollywood. Its hard to believe he's only been nominated three times at the Oscars (Gladiator, Walk the Line, and The Master) and has never won, even though in every film he appears in he puts in a stellar performance. Don't Worry He Won't Get Far on Foot is no exception with a thoroughly engaging story with a stand out performance from Phoenix.
John Callahan gets into a car with a drunk friend who crashes resulting in Callahan becoming paralysed. Despite his disability Callahan discovers that he has a talent for drawing irreverent cartoons and that he must face his demons.
Now Don't Worry He Won't Get Far on Foot doesn't see John Callahan go through some dramatic transformation like Eddie Redmayne's Hawking in The Theory of Everything or Adrien Brody's Szpilman in The Pianist. Its a lot more subtle than that. The story isn't about him beating his new physical reality and transcending it by creating some cartoons, its really about him facing, battling, and defeating his inner demons which arguably afflict him with more frequency.
This subtle story arc is what pushes Don't Worry He Won't Get Far on Foot heads above other such films. It makes it a heck of a lot more engaging and gets you to completely invest in Callahan and the other characters that surround him. Its real life. Its completely and utterly relatable.
Words cannot describe how wonderful Phoenix is here. He complete disappears behind the thick glasses and the red hair and is transformed into Callahan. He's a neurotic, unpredictable, and at times unrepentant alcoholic with madness flowing from his eyes and every expression his face can utter. Phoenix is completely astounding.
All the support cast around him are outstanding too with Jonah Hill giving a wonderfully, nuanced performance and Jack Black doing wonders with the little screen time he has.
Joaquin Phoenix is astounding in this completely compelling tale. One of this years best. Make sure you see it.