Alcoholic John Callahan survives a horrific car accident that leaves him paralyzed, and after entering the twelve step program he discovers a knack for cartooning.
Bursting With Fragile Beauty;
And Superb Acting.
Watch in Theater Immediately
**Pickup at Redbox Upon Release**
Stream on Netflix/Watch on Cable
Don’t Waste Your Time
By most accounts, it would seem that John Callahan was an interesting guy, so it makes sense that his biopic would be equally interesting. It never really feels like one, between the personal, introspective nature of his self-reflection while in treatment and the dark humor of his cartoons, occasionally brought to life on the screen for added effect. I was so sucked into the story by the incredible performances from Phoenix and Hill that I forgot this was based on a real person, and when the main character finds some moments of triumph in the end, it feels genuine and hard-earned, never forced or unnecessary. It is a reflection on addiction, recovery, forgiveness, escapism, faith and the power of staying true to yourself, whatever version you have grown to become. Van Sant employs a lot of two-shot handicam, tight over the shoulders of other characters in conversations, giving you a sense of wounded, shaky people from perspectives of others just like them. The editing helps find a lot of tenderness within scenes of both sadness and fulfillment, with minor time jumps back and forth and the occasional flashback or abrupt cut to give you a window into the characters and illustrate the inherent confusion and frustration of addiction treatment. And I simply can’t say enough about the two leads, who each provide brilliant work. I expect it from Phoenix, which may be unfair, but he more than delivers in a role that sees him mostly confined to a wheelchair, his face and voice telling the story his body cannot. His journey is a searing one, full of life even at the worst of times. But the true magic comes from Jonah Hill, playing his rich sponsor and, for lack of a better term, spiritual guide. He has a very laid-back flair about him, but it’s clear the whole time that he uses his body language as a defense mechanism. His pain is his shield, and he needs the group as much as they need him, if not more so. I wouldn’t be shocked if he scores another Supporting Actor nod from his work here. This is a somber, rewarding film that I hope people see, whether in its limited theatrical run or at home, as I think it has the power to leave a mark for many.