Directed by: Gus Van Sant
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Jack Black, Rooney Mara
UK Release Date: 26th October 2018 (Amazon Prime & select cinemas)
After a car accident that leaves him paralysed, John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) tries to become sober and finds he has a talent for drawing funny yet often controversial cartoons.
The title, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, comes from one of Callahan’s cartoons showing some cowboys looking at an abandoned wheelchair and saying they’ll soon catch the guy. This sort of wry, and sometimes near the knuckle, sense of humour is prevalent throughout Callahan’s cartoons, many of which are animated and featured in the film. It’s also very much the sense of humour that’s running through the film, dark and sometimes weird and self-deprecating.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is a biopic that’s told in a non-linear way. It’s a bit jarring really, especially at the beginning as scenes are intertwined with one another with no real reference point or understanding of who any of these characters are. The pacing continues to be uneven with the last thirty minutes or so being a drag.
Joaquin Phoenix is naturally great (even when wearing a horrendous range wig), managing to make Callahan irritating and charming in equal measure. Even before the accident and he becomes a little bitter, Callahan is a rude alcoholic that barely functions. After his accident, he’s not much better until he finally takes steps to become sober. Reading up on the real John Callahan after seeing the film, I did find it is a bit weird that 43-year-old Joaquin Phoenix was cast when Callahan had his accident when he was 21. This age discrepancy also makes his relationship with his nurse turned girlfriend Annu (Rooney Mara) seem out of place. She, like many of the characters surrounding Callahan, are never fleshed out more than the archetypes of their character.
The exception to that is Donnie (Jonah Hill), a recovering alcoholic and AA meeting leader. Hill is brilliant, and at times he even manages to outshine Phoenix, as he plays a wealthy gay hippie who is both hilarious and astute.
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is more of a character study than a film with a cohesive and compelling plot, but it manages to be a perfectly serviceable biopic. Phoenix and Hill are great but they’re not enough to make this a memorable film.