Based on memoirs of John Callahan, Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot shares the life of an alcoholic navigating the journey from his wheelchair to becoming sober. Callahan is an exceptionally charismatic person so it’s easy to see why his life is so adventurous, though alcohol will no doubt have played a part in that. It’s a story about finding that moment when you are ready to make the change to your life. For Callahan’s it was long after he was wheelchair bound from a drunken car accident. But from this tragedy came a great new lease on his life.
John Callahan (Joaquin Phoenix) struggles to get through his day without the help of alcohol. Panic sets in when he knows he is about to sober up and it’s a dangerous rush to the store for his next fix. It’s this horrible dependency that ends up costing him the ability to walk. In an attempt to find the ultimate party with his new best friend, Dexter (Jack Black), the two drive highly intoxicated only for Dexter to fall asleep at the wheel.
Waking up in hospital without the function of his lower body, Callahan struggles to find meaning in his life and continues to drink. That is until he finds Donnie (Jonah Hill) and his piglets that help set him on the right path through the Alcoholics Anonymous program. Not only does Callahan manage to answer questions and find peace with his life prior to the car crash, he also manages to stop drinking and find an outlet in drawing.
His drawing gains him recognition and is widely acclaimed. With the commentary in his drawings, Callahan ends up making the most of the life he now has. But it’s not all that bad, with the success of his drawings he also has a beautiful and supportive girlfriend Annu (Rooney Mara).
Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot is a tough story as it deals with alcoholism, quadriplegics and dabbles the AIDS epidemic of the 80s. As dark as this may seem, the film is executed with a dark and creative whip of humour. And it’s this humour that can be seen in Callahan’s art.
Bringing this memoir to life is Director Gus Van Sant who has a good background in story telling by creating a great attachment and focus on individual characters. This style is probably best seen in Good Will Hunting. Not only does he manage to bring the memoir to life but also touch on the lives of the everyone around the lead character letting you find connections with these additional characters as well.
Joaquin Phoenix (Her, Walk the Line, Ladder 49) gives one of his best performances as Callahan. This is such a complex character made harder by the fact that it is for the most part performed from a wheelchair. Phoenix manages to capture the essence of who Callahan is by bringing a great deal of reality to his performance. Despite the comedy and what seems a tightly scripted story, he navigates the words and brings life to this already extraordinary individual.
Jonah Hill (21 Jump St, Superbad, Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as Donny plays this seemingly hilarious party going homosexual who happens to run an AA. He is wise beyond his years and has a very relaxed easy-going persona that tends to resonate beyond the screen. Hill taps into something that is very real on a personal level offering some of his best work yet.
Overall, Don’t Worry He Won’t Get Far on Foot is a horribly hilarious look at the life of someone who is hilarious but with a horrible backstory. The characters are people you can connect with and though the story is sometimes a tad stretched out it is true and real and most of them are easily relatable. There are some absolute outstanding performances, but the only thing you will leave thinking is how much would it hurt falling out of your wheelchair.
Review by Jay Cook