“I thought the story would end with an epiphany.”
You might think the same of Gus Van Sant’s latest, a modest biopic of cartoonist John Callahan, who discovers his talent for cartoons after an accident that relegates him to a wheelchair and pushes on a path towards sobriety. The pieces are in place for a familiar film skewing from depressing to uplifting: a real-life story, disability and, of course, addiction.
While Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot isn’t quite a revelation, it bucks both the conventions of biopics and addiction stories. It avoids the traps of the former by adopting a non-linear, fragmented narrative – mostly successfully – and sidesteps addiction tropes by avoiding a dire portrait of rock bottom nor a series of relapses. Rather, this is a story that “celebrates mediocrity”, chronicling a simple path – all twelve steps.
The story is, thus, almost entirely undramatic. It gives Don’t Worry an enduring charm, even if it skews towards slightness. The film is buoyed primarily by its players, featuring the likes of Joaquin Phoenix in the lead, a surprisingly subtle Jonah Hill, and an impressive supporting turn from Beth Ditto. My only major complaint: that Rooney Mara is wispily underused.