Out of the two movies this year to feature great performances from Joaquin Phoenix, so far, my favorite would be “You Were Never Really Here,” which thrives in showing us the deep emotions of a hit man suffering from PTSD.
His next film, “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot,” isn’t glorious in terms of its narrative, but it offers some fresh performances and touching and witty moments to keep things rolling.
Phoenix gives a fine performance as John Callaghan (1951-2010), an alcoholic cartoonist, who becomes paralyzed in the legs after a car accident, and attends AA meetings to get his life back on track.
The movie jumps from place to place, as John dreams of reuniting with his Irish-American mom, who abandoned him as a kid, and joins the AA meeting hosted by a Gay rich man (Jonah Hill,) who prefers to refer to Jesus as “Chucky,” and calls his members “Piglets.” As struggling as their recoveries get, they come to understand one another.
Also in the story are Callaghan’s cartoons, which are deemed politically incorrect with offensive characters, while praise is given for the dark humor it holds. Sure, he wasn’t exactly Gary Larson or Jim Davis, in terms of his handwriting, due to the accident, but you can still understand his work.
The cast also includes Rooney Mara as a Swedish volunteer assistant, whom John falls for, and Jack Black as a fat Burt Reynolds, who invites him for drinks and babes, which lead to the car crash. And only one of them came out with scratches. You know who.
There hasn’t been a classic Gus Van Sant film since “Milk,” and “Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot” is no classic, but it does offer nice qualities to make it watchable. Once we get through the dry intro and mesh mash narrative, we meet John Callaghan and his struggles as an alcoholic and a paraplegic. And his relationship with the guru is more effective than any other connection in the film. Phoenix and Hill have chemistry in their own special ways.
The humor is decent in weird ways, mostly about Callaghan’s comics and his early attempts to regain his sexual joys. You see a nurse sitting on his face, KKK doodles, and a fantasy of him reuniting with his mom. I’m not sure how most people would take this kind of movie, when it receives its nationwide release. Maybe you’ll like it or dislike it. In my defense, the movie is imperfect, but at least I care about the characters and actors.