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Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot Movie Review

Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot (2018) movie poster Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot

Theatrical Release: July 13, 2018 / Running Time: 115 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Gus Van Sant / Writers: John Callahan (book & story); Gus Van Sant (story & screenplay); Jack Gibson, William Andrew Eatman (story)

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix (John Callahan), Jonah Hill (Donnie Green), Rooney Mara (Annu), Jack Black (Dexter), Tony Greenhand (Tim), Beth Ditto (Reba), Mark Webber (Mike), Ronnie Adrian (Martingale), Kim Gordon (Corky), Udo Kier (Hans), Carrie Brownstein (Suzanne)


In Gus Van Sant's
Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot, Joaquin Phoenix plays John Callahan, a humorous panel cartoonist who goes through the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous in 1970s California but not before a drunk driving accident renders him quadriplegic and confined to a motorized wheelchair.

Bouncing around before and after the accident, we come to know Callahan as a witty, easygoing man who is altogether dependent on booze. That hasn't changed after his grueling accident recovery or even after he starts attending AA meetings with a welcoming group. Eventually, though, he does get serious about getting sober, inviting the bearded, gay, long-haired Donnie Green (Jonah Hill) to be his sponsor.

"Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot" stars Joaquin Phoenix as John Callahan, a Portland-born cartoonist battling alcohol addiction in 1970s California.

Don't Worry is based on a true story, which is somewhat of a surprising reveal if you don't know the real Callahan going in, although the specificity of time and place and the prominence given the real Callahan's often off-color comic doodlings make more sense afterwards.

There is not an abundance of plot here. The film is concerned with following Callahan through downs and ups and that's about it. There are some of both and together they flesh out Callahan and give meaning to his journey, one which undoubtedly will resonate most with those who have battled and overcome addiction by accepting a higher power, making amends, and so on.

John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) eventually gets serious about getting clean under the sponsorship of Donnie Green (Jonah Hill).

There is nothing revolutionary about the screenplay by Van Sant, who shares story credit with the real Callahan (who passed away in 2010) and two others. It is fascinating that this material came to Van Sant via his Oscar-winning Good Will Hunting actor Robin Williams, who optioned Callahan's story back in the '90s
and presumably might have starred in it.

Though he is much older than he is playing, Phoenix, sporting an "electric orange" John Denver look, certainly does the role justice. Hill too impresses, making you almost completely forget that just ten years ago it was tough to imagine him playing anything but the funny fat friend in comedies. Rooney Mara claims third billing in a head-scratching role that doesn't derail anything, while Jack Black is effective in essentially two scenes as the driver of Callahan's ill-fated vehicle.

If Don't Worry was opening in November or December, some tonal inconsistencies and unresolved threads would be easier to pounce on. As a mid-summer theatrical release, though, this is not awards bait but appealing counterprogramming to big, dumb summer blockbusters and thus easy to swallow and recommend. After premiering at Sundance last January and opening in four coastal theaters last weekend, the Amazon Studios-distributed Don't Worry will continue to expand as the season's big budget competition thins.

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Reviewed July 23, 2018.

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