Having just reviewed the documentary Exit Through the Gift Shop, which may or may not be a farce, I now switch gears to review I'm Still Here, a "documentary" that has been confirmed to be just that. Unfortunately, I'm Still Here is one of the least interesting productions of 2010, a rather shocking and sobering surprise given the risks Joaquin Phoenix took to make it.
I'm Still Here is directed by Casey Affleck and focuses on his brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix's transition from Oscar-nominated actor to scruffy, bearded rapper. The movie documents the former actor's passion for his new art as well as the various obstacles he encounters, including the notorious and still-hilarious Letterman interview.
The movie is also a lie.
As suspected ever since Joaquin Phoenix seemingly went off the deep end in 2008 and confirmed shortly after I'm Still Here's release - probably because no one was paying to see it in the first place - everything was an elaborate ruse, a joke, played on the media, fans and even his friends and colleagues.
Unfortunately, I'm still not sure what the point of I'm Still Here is. There was plenty of potential here for the movie to be something, anything other than what it is: a complete waste of space. It isn't funny, clever or entertaining.
The problem with I'm Still Here is that Affleck and Phoenix only allude to the big joke in a few small moments; otherwise, the picture is treated as a "real" documentary. The audience isn't in the joke - no one is - and Phoenix's transformation, for the sake of the story, is "real" as well.
I'm Still Here could have been truly funny had Affleck taken a different angle. Focus on Phoenix's struggles to maintain his character day in and day out. Show him true reactions to the painful responses he gets from some other celebrities (like P.Diddy). Feature the moment when Phoenix announces the truth that everything is a lie.
As is, I'm Still Here slogs through the ins and outs of Phoenix's faux transformation, presenting him as a pompous jackass who has no consideration for his friends or colleagues. He isn't a likable character, and he is the only character. There's no purpose, no point, to the picture, and the best moments are the clips that went viral long before this movie was released.
I have no doubt that Phoenix will rebound to his old form with one or two good roles, but I'm Still Here is an experiment gone horribly, horribly wrong. I respect the actor for doing something so bold, and yet, at least in hindsight, it was a completely idiotic thing to do.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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