directed by Casey Affleck
While big brother Ben has mad skills behind the camera, Casey Affleck’s directorial debut is less than award worthy. In fact, if the film is as real as Affleck’s doc subject Joaquin Phoenix claims it is, then Affleck may need to think about straightening out his priorities. I’m Still Here chronicles the recent tragedy that is Joaquin Phoenix’s (JP, if you want to throw around his hip hop name) professional career, and Affleck (Phoenix’s bro in law, btw) apparently seeks to stitch together the actor’s worst possible moments to punctuate the flaming wreckage of his “career move.” It’s no secret that Phoenix announced a few years ago that he was retiring from acting to pursue his true passion, rap music (trust me, your facial expression right now pales in comparison to Sean Combs when JP plays him his demo), but despite rumors and allegations that the move was all a hoax cooked up by the duo, Phoenix vehemently defends his actions throughout the film. Add strangely humorous and perfectly ridiculous interactions with other Hollywood pros to the mix (especially Ben Stiller and Edward James Olmos), and you end up with quite a problem for old JP. The problem is that, if the film is a joke meant to lampoon celebrity egomania and vacuous Hollywood culture, Andy Kaufman style, then it falls short because it’s far too inside of a joke and inconsistent in terms of taste (the hookers, the Anton as rat sequence). At least with Kaufman the joke was, however convoluted it may have been, perceivable. In I’m Still Here, it’s too over the top, and Phoenix staunchly denying the hoax claims renders the whole point essentially moot. How can he come back now and say “Ha ha. We got you,” and more importantly, who will care? This brings us to the more frightening possibility (of which I was and still am skeptical) that it is serious, in which case Affleck, instead of documenting this tailspin, should have acted like a good brother in law and tried to help JP by bringing him back to reality. Because let’s face it: Phoenix sucks as a rapper, and I cite both the gem he played for Combs called (I assume) “Complifuckincations,” or the hook from his Miami show in which he spits “After all these years, I ain’t scared. Never fear, I don’t even fear fuckin’ fear.” Maybe it’s denial, but I still thought I spotted an ironic glint in JP’s eye every now and again, but it still doesn’t change the fact that whatever Affleck and Phoenix hoped to say with this film has fallen through the cracks in a doc that, like the possible hoax, went on for too long with, ultimately, nothing to show for it. The one sheet kicks ass, though.
Hoax? Or filmic black box recording the final days of a great acting talent crashing into the metaphorical mountains? What do you think? (I made to sure to specify that I am speaking metaphorically, Mr. P, so you don’t get confused.)