To put it concisely, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is warm, messy, oddly hilarious, and sometimes heartbreaking. Just like life.
The film is directed by Gus Van Sant (“Drugstore Cowboy”) and is the latest piece to come out of Amazon Studios. “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” stars Joaquin Phoenix and Jonah Hill, with a sparkling supporting cast featuring Jack Black, Rooney Mara, and Carrie Brownstein. With this title under their belt, Amazon Studios furthers solidifies its place as a powerhouse for festival darling films.
“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is based on the memoir of American cartoonist, John Callahan. The film tells the story of Callahan’s life leading up to and following a life-changing and devastating automobile accident that renders him a quadriplegic. On his road to sobriety, Callahan wrestles with his inner-demons while also finding a new lease on life through his newly-discovered love of drawing cartoons. He grasps his pen between two shaking hands and creates controversial, sardonic drawings that uplift those around him as much as they lift his own spirits out of darkness.
As far as John Callahan, the man, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” does a fine job in accurately portraying the life of this highly unusual, highly provocative individual. As a biopic, it is a standout for raw portrayals and allowing the unique circumstances to speak louder than the siren song of “artistic liberties”.
Above all, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is an actor’s movie. This film lives and dies by incredibly strong performances. Honestly, this is some of the best acting I’ve seen in years and one of the strongest ensembles in recent memory. Joaquin Phoenix gives a very raw performance as Callahan. Hilarious and heartbreaking. Jack Black, Rooney Mara, and Carrie Brownstein, even in their smaller capacities, bring so much color to this film. Each role feels absolutely essential, regardless of the screentime offered to it.
However, Jonah Hill absolutely and without a doubt steals the show. I hope the studio bought insurance for all that scenery Hill was chewing up. Not to say that the performance is at all overdone, this is absolutely the best use of Jonah Hill’s talents. So goddamn funny and totally magnetic. I could have watched him all day.
A filmmaking element in “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” that I was really digging is the way the story is presented. It’s not a chronological telling. It’s also not a fluid narrative connected by obvious flashbacks. We move seamlessly between moments in Callahan’s life. We get snippets from a speech. Long, coherent scenes. Punctuations of images from previous and future events and peeks at his drawings. “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” isn’t telling a story.
It’s allowing the viewer to feel the emotional current of the journey. We feel what threads connect and we allow it to pull us through these events.
What can I say about the mechanics of the film? Great cinematography. Wonderful writing with this fantastic tone that just feels like Callahan. It’s a fascinating subject presented in the most authentic way imaginable, short of just following the man himself around with a camera.
“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is nothing short of triumphant. I give it the heartiest recommendation and urge you to see this film, as soon as possible.
“Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is in theaters July 20.
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. She currently serves as the Lead Film Contributor for Shuffle Online; other notable bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.