Berlin Diary 6: Gus Van Sant’s latest. Serial killings in Teheran. A super-sweet superhero story.

Posted on February 21, 2018


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In Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot, Gus Van Sant tells one of his patented stories about a troubled soul who finds a mentor and sorts his shit out: call this Good Wheel Hunting. Joaquin Phoenix plays (the real-life) John Callahan, an alcoholic who was paralysed in a car crash, learnt to negotiate life on a motorised wheelchair, and found his calling as a controversial cartoonist. Callahan’s cartoons form a sort of parallel narrative, not just commenting on the action but also taking much-needed shots at today’s politically correct climate. Callahan cracks jokes about dwarves, lesbians, even Jesus. (He’s nailed to the cross, and the speech balloon says, “T.G.I.F.”) The warm, funny tone, almost entirely free of angst, ensures this isn’t My Left Foot – Part 2. I mean, look at that title again!

This is one of Van Sant’s more conventional outings. The narrative flips back and forth in time, not so much chronicling Callahan’s life — step by meticulous step — as giving us a general sense of the man. Even as the beats turn familiar — a romance with an Air Scandinavia stewardess (Rooney Mara), heart-to-hearts with the mentor (a terrific Jonah Hill), the 12-step recovery programme — Phoenix keeps us watching. An interview with Van Sant in The Hollywood Reporter reminded me that this isn’t the first time he’s working with Phoenix. They collaborated on To Die For, a film I’ve nearly forgotten. When asked about Phoenix’s evolution, Van Sant said, “It’s very similar, but he’s 20-something years older, so he has had so much more experience in creating a role, using all the experiences from the past.”

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Posted in: Cinema: Foreign