Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot is the latest indie drama from Gus Van Sant and is based on a true story about the late cartoonist John Callahan. After a debilitating car accident leaves him paralyzed, Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) struggles with sobriety but begins to find solace from drawing irreverent cartoons. I’ll admit that I haven’t seen any of Van Sant’s other movies, but I was still interested in this one because of that promising A-list cast. After finally seeing the film, I can say that the film is worth checking out.
On a technical level, the film is not mind-blowingly amazing but is still professional enough to accept. While most of the film is shot on a tripod, there are times where he uses a handheld camera and I wish he would stick to one way or the other. The production design was solid to the point where I eventually realized that it wasn’t set in present day. One of my favorite elements of the film is when it shows animated versions of Callahan’s cartoons with Phoenix narrating the speech bubbles because they bring some much-needed levity to the story and I would’ve liked to see more of them. Danny Elfman composes the music for Don’t Worry and it’s probably one of his better works in recent years as it elevates several of the film’s more emotional moments.
The performances are where this film truly shines. Joaquin Phoenix is terrific as Callahan. He captures the humorous nature of Callahan while still making us, as an audience, feel for him whenever he is at his lowest. I haven’t seen the other Amazon film that Phoenix was in from this year, You Were Never Really Here, but I’m sure that both movies will put him in this year’s awards conversation. Another standout performance is Jonah Hill as Callahan’s AA sponsor, Donnie, who has great chemistry with Phoenix and has an emotional scene towards the end, proving once again why he is a great dramatic actor. The one character I have a problem with is Callahan’s Swedish girlfriend Annu, played by Rooney Mara, who could’ve been given more to do since she literally appears in her first scene with little to no explanation.
Another area that the film excels in is its screenplay. Van Sant shows us Callahan’s struggles with sobriety while also overcoming those struggles. It’s a heartwarming story that will surely uplift many people. One of my only problems with the screenplay is that it can often shift between time periods, which can usually interrupt the pacing. I also wish that the film would have given us a better look into Callahan’s drawing skills. Regardless, those issues are large enough to ruin the film.
Verdict: 4 out of 5
Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot isn’t without its flaws, but I would still recommend it regardless. If anything, it’s worth seeing for Phoenix and Hill’s performances alone. Otherwise, I’m sure it will come to Amazon Prime a few months later.