Gus Van Sant is known for experimenting with different themes throughout various genres. He was praised for the harsh nature of the non-linear Elephant, the feelgood direction within Good Will Hunting, and the warm-hearted biopic of Harvey Milk in the aptly titled Milk. However, Don’t Worry feels like a revisited idea shared within the vein of his previous films. Following the life of cartoonist John Callahan (who was paralyzed during a car accident), we follow Joaquin Phoenix's portrayal of a man who struggles to find meaning in life.
Jonah Jonah Jonah: My most positive reaction to this film was how well the actors perform the script. Joaquin Phoenix is genuinely moving watching his character progression throughout the film. And Jonah Hill gives the most surprising performance as he flexes his acting chops in the most emotional role I’ve seen him in – hopefully landing him more serious roles in the future. Unfortunately, Rooney Mara and Jack Black don’t feature as much as advertised so feelings on performances are minimal but nothing poor to report. The acting in the film is its high point.
Animation Nation: Don’t Worry uses the same cartoons that Callahan himself published – the film even goes as far as to animate these. Easily, these sections of the film obtained the hardest of laughs at the cinema which is excellent to see that these actual cartoons are still bringing entertainment to modern audiences. Phoenix also ‘draws’ some of these cartoons with his mouth much like Callahan.
Retrospectively… As heart-warming and enjoyable as Don’t Worry is, my retrospective opinion on the film has shifted entirely. Immediately after the viewing, I was super happy with the film – I found it enjoyable, with top performances, and a sound script (most of which I still believe). I did, unfortunately, find myself not remembering the film after and had entirely forgotten about it. No aspect of the film lingered with me. Even further, Don’t Worry didn’t do anything fresh with the biography genre and in that sense feels incredibly generic. But I had a good time at the cinema which is sadly where the film stayed.