Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black, Udo Kier, Beth Ditto
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…while it’s occasionally funny, and even more infrequently poignant, there are too many times when it feels flat and a bit of a hard slog…
A mounted posse is in the desert, looking at an empty wheelchair. One of them’s saying “Don’t worry, he won’t get far on foot.” That’s a typically blackly funny cartoon by the late John Callahan. It’s also of course where the title of this film comes from, though the actual content derives (rather loosely) from the quadriplegic Callahan’s autobiography – which, speaking of hilarious titles, was called Will The Real John Callahan Please Stand Up?
Given his penchant for irreverence and allegedly sick humour – and his apparent dislike of sentimentality – you have to wonder what Callahan would have thought of this often maudlin and ‘worthy’ movie. Joaquin Phoenix is excellent (and as charismatic as usual) in the central role, and the other actors are fine too, but their performances are in the service of a script that concentrates on espousing the twelve-step recovery programme of Alcoholics Anonymous. Not that AA’s efficacy should be doubted, but it’s hardly a revelation.
Some of Callahan’s problems – including his drinking one – preceded the car crash from which the equally dipsomaniacal driver Dexter (Jack Black) walked away with a few scratches. For one thing, Callahan was embittered and tormented by the knowledge that his mother gave him up for adoption, and that’s a secondary and recurrent theme here.
Contrary to some reports, this is a long way from writer-director Gus Van Sant’s best work; it’s okay, but not remotely unmissable. And while it’s occasionally funny, and even more infrequently poignant, there are too many times when it feels flat and a bit of a hard slog – not unlike, presumably, a battle with alcoholism.