It’s been a while since Gus Van Sant both wrote and directed a film—since 2007’s Paranoid Park, in fact—and nearly as long since one has scored with either audiences or critics. Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far On Foot aims to reverse that downward trend by returning to a favorite theme of friendships forged among the lost, as well as the true stories that have fueled some of his most acclaimed work. Joaquin Phoenix stars as real-life cartoonist John Callahan in this adaptation of his memoir of the same name, which deals with Callahan’s efforts to give up drinking in the wake of a drunken car wreck that left him as a wheelchair-bound quadriplegic. Naturally, he gets there with the help of a motley crew that includes Rooney Mara, Jack Black, and Jonah Hill channeling 1970s Bob Seger.

While the premise suggests something verging on that “middling prestige” brand of maudlin biopic, Callahan’s work was defined by its dark humor and rejection of sentimentality, so that certainly bodes well, as does the fact that Van Sant has been working on this passion project for years now (at one point even pursuing Robin Williams for the lead). We’ll find out for sure when it premieres this month at Sundance