12 steps older. Review of ”Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far” (Topic)

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12 steps older. Review of ”Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far”

Image The story of a paralyzed cartoonist who is being treated for alcoholism begs to be filmed for a melodrama. The main character will immediately introduce himself to the public, they say, I'm an orphan, I don't know anything about my mother, and on the last morning, when I could walk, I didn't have a hangover, because I still hadn't sober up. But in this case, the melodrama is just a genre gimmick.

Who would have thought - Gus Van Sant is 66 years old! This is hard to believe, because he has always been the singer of rebellious freedom-loving. And also the violation of boundaries and self-destruction, so characteristic of youth. Van Sant showed the world Portland as it is, with its beautiful doom. Here all are a bit relatives and accomplices. Hopelessly distant, shunning contacts, but feeling kinship.

All this means that his new film "Don't worry, he won't go far" is also about this - about restlessness, orphanhood and self-destruction. A biopic about his fellow countryman, cartoonist and musician from Portland John Callahan, the director had been planning for a long time. In the credits there is an important dedication to the actor Robin Williams. It was he who bought the rights to film the cartoonist's autobiography shortly after its release in 1998. Robin, who had already worked with Van Sant, invited him to direct this film, while he himself dreamed of playing the main role. As a result, the project was implemented only now, when neither Williams nor Callahan himself are already dead.


The main character was played by Joaquin Phoenix, with whom Van Sant is also connected by a difficult story. The elder brother of the actor, River Phoenix, played in the director's cult film "My Private Idaho", and two years later he died of an overdose. Robin Williams, by the way, had problems with alcohol and committed suicide. So Gus and Joaquin know about self-destruction firsthand. That is why only they could tell the story of John Callahan that way. So - this is without rapture with falls, moving away from pity and without Hollywood fake applause at the moment of the final overcoming.

ImageThe director himself, according to his own words, was not quite clear what of the events shown in the film actually happened. In life, John Callahan loved to embellish, lie, poison tales and create a myth about himself. The creators took this path even further - they came up with an affair with the Swede Anna (Rooney Mara), who helped the protagonist in a rehabilitation center, and then became a stewardess for Swedish airlines. In reality, Callahan was indeed a ladies' man. In his autobiography, there really is a girlfriend, Anna, who helped him in the hospital, but after they never met.

Joaquin Phoenix, disguised as the protagonist, acquired a striking portrait resemblance, but not with a cartoonist, but with Robin Williams, who dreamed of this role so much. Phoenix plays brilliantly, but as if not his character, but Williams in the role of Callahan. All this does not harm the film, it just ceases to be a pure biopic and becomes an interpretation of the story by many people who are not indifferent to it.

And the story is simple: young John, a pupil of first an orphanage, and then foster parents, from the age of 12 became addicted to alcohol. At 21, he is already afraid of withdrawal, so sobriety never comes. At a party, he meets the same party-goer Dexter (Jack Black). They raid bars, and on the way back Dexter gets behind the wheel and their car crashes into a pole at full speed. After that, John faces many years of rehabilitation and binge. But at one point he turns to Alcoholics Anonymous and meets Donnie (Jonah Hill), a wealthy gay man, who takes care of their small group, continuing meetings separately from the others at his home.


And there are no spoilers here, because you won't see such a story in the film. Van Sant, while a master of simple narrative, makes this one intriguingly non-linear. Flashbacks are not indicated in any way, it is impossible to understand from which point in time we are watching what is happening. But there is a clear emotional vector that, with its directness, holds the entire structure. And also some really brilliant, funny and evil Callahan cartoons. Each of them indirectly illustrates and sets off scenes of the past, but not head-on, because they are real art. All their evil irony is not immediately revealed and is not limited to a simple satire of modernity.


The film is often written about as an illustration of the 12 Step program that helps people with addiction, but is it that simple? In the tape, it is true that some of her postulates sound casually several times, and the first scene is edited excerpts of confession from the meetings. But if you look closely, it's easy to see that all these words are spoken into the void. Monologues are not addressed to anyone and sound among others, just as sad. It is unclear if anyone hears them, or if everyone is just sullenly immersed in their own problems. Before us is rather a story about disability itself, about the fact that not paralysis, but alcoholism was really a terrible disease. And the chair and the months of immobilization preceding it became what prevented the hero from further running away from life.


When you are cornered and can no longer hide from the meaninglessness of your own life, willy-nilly you have to look for a way out. For example, viciously making fun of her device. By the way, no one except Callahan could afford to laugh so cynically at people with disabilities, gays, lesbians and other, at that time, poorly protected social groups. He was allowed to do this partly because he himself was one of them. And the film is just about this - about how to stop being a victim of circumstances and make them work for you.

The Topic of Article: 12 steps older. Review of ”Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far”.
Author: Jake Pinkman