The Movie Guru: ‘The Mother’ struggles, but ‘STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie’ shines
“The Mother” (Netflix)
“The Mother” is really two movies uncomfortably squished together.
The first is a straightforward, somewhat grim action movie about an ex-military sniper trying to save a young woman who has been kidnapped by people in the sniper’s past. If you’re a fan of darker, revenge-based action movies, these portions of the film are solidly satisfying. The fact that the vet is a woman is the most interesting thing about it – female leads are still tragically rare in the action genre – and Jennifer Lopez performs her duties admirably.
The second movie, unfortunately, is the angsty story of an emotionally destroyed woman reconnecting with the daughter she was forced to give away under violent circumstances. There are some potentially interesting concepts here, such as the teaching of violence as a tragic attempt at love, that could make for a wrenching indie film. If you wanted to execute those concepts at all well, however, it would take at least an hour of careful buildup.
Since that previous hour is taken with the grim action movie, however, we don’t get that. We get a half hour of uncomfortable dinners and shooting lessons, then it’s back to the action movie. Instead of adding any kind of depth to the film, the switch skids the tension to an abrupt halt and means we don’t spend nearly enough time with the villains. The movie is all about revenge, from both sides, but we never really get to feel why they hate her so much.
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On their own, either movie might have been good. Together, however, “The Mother” is merely okay.
Grade: Two stars
“STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie” (Apple TV+)
Parkinson’s may have limited the acting roles Michael J. Fox can comfortably accept, but he’s just as engaging as ever.
Proof of that can be found in “STILL: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” which hits streaming this weekend. Though it’s described as a documentary, the experience of watching “STILL” is more like being invited over to Fox’s house for a frank, incredibly interesting discussion about his life. He’s open about everything, from letting stardom get to his head during his early years to hiding his Parkinson’s and the alcoholism that came from it. He’s still in command of his own story, but it’s clear he’s not holding anything back.
He’s also still the born showman we all came to love through years of movies and television. The charm we’re all so familiar with is still very much in evidence, without the manic energy of earlier years but displaying the same magnetic pull. He’s also as funny as ever, with a wry, observational humor that both carries the movie along and gives serious moments that much more impact. When the normally talkative Fox goes speechless for a moment, it’s heartbreaking.
The editing on the movie is incredible. Several flashback scenes feature a mix of from-the-back re-creation and scenes from Fox’s old movies, all carefully chosen and cut to blend seamlessly together. The result almost looks like we’re watching a young Fox experience all these things in real time, which only adds to the experience.
If you’ve ever been a fan of Michael J. Fox, or just want to spend some time with a fascinating, funny man, then “STILL” is a movie you can’t miss.
Jenniffer Wardell is an award-winning movie critic and member of the Denver Film Critics Society. Find her on Twitter at @wardellwriter or drop her a line at email@example.com.