Review: I'm Still Here (TIFF)
PLOT: A documentary exploring the unravelling of actor Joaquin Phoenix's life after he decides to become a rapper.
REVIEW: I'm not sure what to make of I'M STILL HERE. Is it a documentary, or is it a hoax? I'm inclined to believe the latter, as I seriously doubt that Phoenix would have ever been able to sustain such a stellar career in front of the cameras had he been the borderline sociopath he's portrayed as here. Throughout the 100 minute running time, Phoenix snorts about a pound of cocaine, and smokes enough weed to make Cheech & Chong seem like the picture of sobriety. He also sleeps with prostitutes, abuses all of his friends, destroys his career, and climatically, gets shit on. Literally. He also seems curiously fixated on seeing his friends pull out their penises.
Seeing as how director Casey Affleck is Phoenix's brother-in-law, there's no way this could be anything other than a put on, and Affleck portrays him in a way that absolutely destroys any credibility Phoenix has left as a human being- never mind as an actor. If he's half the ass-hole he comes off as here, Phoenix deserves to be crowned the absolute king douche-bag of Hollywood.
It's incredible how much of a dick he is throughout. Just for shits and giggles, he tries to get a former addict buddy back into blow just to prove he can. Surprising behavior for a man who's own brother died of a drug overdose. He also spends a good chunk of the film complaining about how competitors like Leonardo DiCaprio get all the best roles, and win all the awards- all the while badmouthing a bunch of his (perfectly decent) films like RESERVATION ROAD, and TWO LOVERS.
It must be fake.
If it is, then this is one of the greatest, tour-DE-force performances I've ever seen, as Phoenix is not afraid to all but destroy his career, gain a shit-load of weight, and make himself out to be a moron. His songs are so bad that in one memorable scene, P Diddy, rather than being amused at how awful the songs are, actually looks angry at having his time wasted by this poser who thinks of himself as an artist. He also calls Affleck's role in THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, whack, which is certainly isn't, so what does he know? Actually, he comes off as remarkably intelligent, although it all seems a little too perfect. In addition to Diddy, there's a whole slew of other celebrity cameos, including a hilariously offbeat sequence where Phoenix is visited by Edward James Olmos, who provides the meandering narration that's featured in the trailer, while Phoenix attempts to entertain him by dropping a few rhymes.
I'M STILL HERE is a hard film to categorize, as we're never let off the hook by Phoenix or Affleck winking to the camera and explaining that it's all a joke. In fact, I saw this film with two fellow online critics whose work I respect tremendously, and both of them think it's the real deal, and that Phoenix is in full meltdown mode. I sincerely hope this isn't the case, because if it is, it just goes to prove that you can be an absolutely reprehensible human being and still have a brilliant career in Hollywood. BUT, if it is indeed a joke, then this may be the greatest performance Phoenix has ever given.