‘Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie’ Review: A Star’s Dignity
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‘Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie’ Review: A Star’s Dignity

Weaving together film clips, dramatic re-creations and interviews with the actor, this affecting documentary on Apple TV+ explores his life with Parkinson’s disease.

By JOHN ANDERSON
Fri, May 12, 2023 8:43amGrey Clock 3 min

This is probably less a critique than a thank-you note to director Davis Guggenheim and to the subject of “Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie,” a marriage of exhilaration and sadness and, despite the title, the most moving thing on television. Mr. Fox was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars when he was diagnosed in 1991 with Parkinson’s disease, which finally forced his full retirement in 2021. His sense of humour remains a wonder. Something most viewers will only have to wonder, fortunately, is whether they would maintain the same dignity under the same set of circumstances.

The title, “Still,” describes something the actor never seemed to be, as evidenced by the voluminous collection of film clips Mr. Guggenheim uses to structure much of the film—Mr. Fox was always running, from “Teen Wolf,” to “The Secret of My Success,” to “Bright Lights, Big City,” to the blockbuster “Back to the Future” franchise and in and out of “Family Ties,” the sitcom that established his comedy credentials and wide appeal. Much of the background action, as well as Mr. Fox’s early biography, is covered through dramatic re-creations and otherwise unconnected film scenes knitted into a coherent narrative. The research must have been strenuous; the editing, too. The pace is nonstop, the humour abundant, the devotion of Mr. Fox’s wife, actress Tracy Pollan, is made plain, and there’s no small amount of nostalgia in store for people who know and love the Fox filmography. But the heart and soul of the film are the face-to-face interviews, which are far less delicate than one might expect. And all the deeper for it.

Seven interviews were conducted over the span of a year, and at one point Mr. Fox and his director (an Oscar winner for “An Inconvenient Truth”) are getting back together after some time, the subject recounting how he basically had, in the interim, fallen and broken his face. Mr. Guggenheim reacts with alarm; his subject is almost blasé. “Gravity is real,” he says, laughing. “Even if you’re only falling from my height.” During a walk along Fifth Avenue with an aide, Mr. Fox is recognised by a fan and when he turns to say hello back, he topples to the sidewalk. “You knocked me off my feet,” he tells the passerby. Everyone smiles, but it breaks your heart.

“I can see in your eyes that you’ve got a great one-liner,” Mr. Guggenheim says to the actor at a point in their exchanges, “and then it has a problem getting to your mouth.” Mr. Fox doesn’t disagree; he doesn’t have to, and often lets a nonresponse compensate when a response would be thwarted by his ailment. As Mr. Guggenheim says, the predictable storyline in a Michael J. Fox movie now would be about a huge star getting a debilitating disease and being crushed by it. “Yeah,” Mr. Fox says, “that’s boring.” Nothing in “Still” is the least bit boring.

Nor is it preachy, or weepy, or looking for pity for its subject, who isn’t looking for any either. He does recall feeling at some point, post-diagnosis, that he was somehow reaping cosmic payback for the enormous if less-than-overnight success he had enjoyed after several seemingly immovable objections fell and he was cast in “Family Ties.” (His tales of Hollywood poverty are close to harrowing although, as he might say, he got over it.) If there’s a flaw in “Still,” it might be Mr. Fox’s reluctance to discuss his physical agony or the psychic struggle that comes with Parkinson’s. (“The worst thing is to be confined,” he says, answering one of Mr. Guggenheim’s very direct questions. “To have no way out.”) You come close, Mr. Guggenheim says about Mr. Fox discussing his pain, “and then you dart away.” But that is a principal reason his subject, and film, are so involving and watchable and rich.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

MOST POPULAR
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This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

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Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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