Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far On Foot

Closing Night Gala | 2018 | 113 minutes

Stranger Says:

The latest from Gus Van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy, Milk, etc.), follows Portland artist John Callahan (played by Joaquin Phoenix) from his hard-partying days, through a drunken accident that leaves him mostly paralyzed, to his kicking alcohol and becoming a much-loved and much-hated cartoonist. Callahan used his comics to make fun of living with a disability, religion, intolerance, and macabre subjects that ended up offending pretty much everyone. Even after the car crash that injured his spinal cord at 21, he didn’t stop his heavy drinking, and his life continued to be chaotic. He eventually finds a group of recovery misfits to help him on his journey to get sober. The group is led by a Lao Tzu–quoting gay alcoholic (Jonah Hill, going full-on Gregg Allman) and includes a self-professed mouthy hick (Beth Ditto) and a blonde housewife who just can’t take it anymore (Kim Gordon). The true story (based on Callahan’s book by the same name) is an affecting one that doesn’t dismiss the hardships of being a quadriplegic or trying to turn your life around. Phoenix has an appealing charm (especially in his ’80s eyeglasses and velour shirts) playing a difficult person with serious issues (hardcore alcoholism, emotional problems) who has to deal with some very hard circumstances and decides to take control of his life on his own terms.

SIFF Says:

The first third of cartoonist John Callahan’s life was far from comical. Given up for adoption in infancy, he was molested by a teacher at age eight, began drinking heavily at 13, and became a quadriplegic at 21 following a horrific car crash. From this misery, however, Callahan discovered a knack for crudely rendered, yet savagely funny, pen-and-ink cartooning, giving him a creative outlet and the catharsis he needed to express the dark, brutally honest emotions bottled up inside him. Filmmaker Gus Van Sant and actor Joaquin Phoenix (working together for the first time since 1995’s TO DIE FOR) tell the story of Callahan’s journey of redemption from reprobate drunk to sober, successful, politically incorrect cartoonist. Phoenix is mesmerizing as the curmudgeonly Callahan, racing around the streets of Portland in his electric wheelchair with his shock of orange hair and disregard for traffic signals. He is helped along through his many setbacks by his AA sponsor, Donnie (Jonah Hill)—a wealthy, gay, hippie-ish devout Christian and walking contradiction, and Annu (Rooney Mara), a Swedish physical therapist with whom John discovers the joys of romance. This biopic takes an unflinching view of the indignities of paralysis, yet finds humanity in this confrontational artist’s struggle to find dark humor in the most painful circumstances.

The screening will be followed by a party.

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Film Credits
Gus Van Sant
Joaquin Phoenix, Jonah Hill, Rooney Mara, Jack Black, Beth Ditto
SIFF 2018