Thursday, April 6, 2023

This is gonna be tough to watch. Inspiring, but tough.

I just stumbled across this on Deadline. It's the trailer for a documentary on actor Michael J. Fox, focusing on his rise to stardom and his decades-long battle with Parkinson's disease. This came as a complete surprise to me - I hadn't heard anything about this film before, but apparently it screened at Sundance and is being released in May.

I remember Fox's Family Ties/Back to the Future days and the stratospheric superstardom that followed. I also remember the day I was sitting at my desk at one of the many crappy, low-paying, soul-sucking jobs that I had over the years and my Mom calling to tell me that someone was making a movie at the local mall in City of Industry where I had spent a chunk of my teens and early twenties. My response was that if they were filming there, it was probably a low-budget piece of crap. I couldn't have been more wrong. The Puente Hills Mall, which is still in operation, would soon become better known to moviegoers as the Twin Pines/Lone Pine Mall in Hill Valley, home to Marty McFly.

Back to the Future was released in 1985 and Fox, already popular on the sitcom Family Ties, skyrocketed to the top of Hollywood. But only a few years later he would start to experience symptoms that eventually led to a diagnosis of Parkinson's Disease. Since revealing the diagnosis, which he kept secret for a number of years, Fox has been a huge advocate for fighting the disease.

As much as I respect Fox for not hiding himself and his condition over the years, it's been hard to watch him deteriorate from the energetic, beloved screen presence to what his disease has done to him. I still haven't been able to watch his acceptance speech from a few months back when he was presented with the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award a few months back, soon after pictures and video of his reunion with Christopher Lloyd at Comic Con revealed him to appear to be in really rough shape, and even after being told the Hersholt speech was funny and entertaining and worth watching. It may be selfish, but I'd like my mental image of him to be from the Marty McFly era and not the undeserving victim of a devastating disease.

I will, however, try to watch this documentary because it does look good, and maybe it will be reassuring to see that Fox has fought the good fight with a hugely positive attitude and an amazing family to support him. In the trailer he states, "I'm a tough son-of-a-bitch." Not a description that I, as a fan, would ever have associated with the hugely appealing 1980's star he was, but it sounds like it's a quality that has provided him with the fortitude to not let Parkinson's prevent him from having a meaningful life both on and off screen.

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