Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot
A quadriplegic alcoholic finds his calling.
Joaquin Phoenix remains one of our most “thrillingly unpredictable” screen actors, said David Edelstein in NYMag.com. In his second dazzling turn this year, the 43-year-old shape-shifter has transformed himself again to portray John Callahan, a quadriplegic Portland, Ore., cartoonist who found mordant humor in his own disability and alcoholism. Callahan’s experience with Alcoholics Anonymous becomes crucial to the story that director Gus Van Sant tells, and fortunately, the film’s AA group-therapy sessions are “the best I’ve seen,” populated by an enjoyably eclectic group of performers. And though Van Sant’s sentimental streak sometimes gets the better of him, “this is still the writer-director’s most formally interesting, emotionally involving movie in a decade,” said A.A. Dowd in AVClub.com. The onetime Oscar winner jumbles time frames, showing Callahan as, among other things, a young wild man about to be paralyzed in a car accident. As Callahan’s romantic interest, Rooney Mara “drifts a bit too spacily through the proceedings,” said Justin Chang in the Los Angeles Times. But Jack Black is excellent as Callahan’s former drinking buddy, and Jonah Hill transforms himself to play the guru figure who oversees the AA meetings. “Tough love never felt so palpable.”