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I'm Still Here

When Joaquin Phoenix made his widely discussed nearly silent appearance on the David Letterman Show last year, did anyone really believe it was anything other than a put-on? I mean, for more than a day? Show business is far too slick these days for anyone to ever melt down that way in public. And the whole thing became substantially less plausible when the world learned that Casey Affleck, who is married to Phoenix’s sister, was making a documentary on Joaquin and his bid to retire from acting and become a hip-hop artist. Still, there are those who cling to the idea that I’m Still Here, as the finished film is called, is the real deal—Roger Ebert, for one.

Circumstantial evidence alone should be enough proof that this is a satire: Both Phoenix and Affleck are motivated to be wary of the destructive nature of show business from having watched their brothers run afoul of the star machine—River Phoenix died of a drug overdose at the age of 23, while Ben Affleck lost hold of a bright career when the tabloids became obsessed with his relationship with Jennifer Lopez. But even on its own merits the movie isn’t very persuasive. The only point in its favor is that it is so technically shoddy that it looks like it could conceivably a cinema verite documentary. (But then, so did The Blair Witch Project.) Phoenix is incoherent and/or obnoxious through most of the movie, but it’s seldom funny. His musical performances are so bad that it’s impossible to believe he could be taking them seriously. And to elevate the freak quotient (and, I fear, appeal to the kind of audience that can probably be counted on to provide some box office for this), there’s a scene in which Phoenix’s much-abused assistant does something to him, apparently real, that I’ve never seen before in a movie and wish I hadn’t seen here. If you’re into that kind of thing, you’ve probably heard about the scene I’m talking about. If you still go to see this, don’t say you haven’t been warned.

m. faust

Watch the trailer for I'm Still Here

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