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With: Joaquin Phoenix, Antony Langdon, Ben Stiller, Sean Combs, Edward James Olmos, Casey Affleck
Written by: Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix
Directed by: Casey Affleck
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Running Time: 108
Date: 09/06/2010
IMDB

I'm Still Here (2010)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Joaquin on the Wild Side

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Most of the attention given to the new Joaquin Phoenix documentary I'm Still Here will be on whether it's real or a hoax; the film itself doesn't answer that question, and viewers will be left to their own devices to decide. Either way, though, it raises some interesting questions about celebrity privilege and celebrity categorization. Phoenix assumes that because he's famous, he can merely start his rap career right away, without working for it. On the other hand, who's to say that he can't switch careers?

In 2008, actor Joaquin Phoenix decides he's had enough of acting. He wants to quit and begin a career in hip-hop music. We follow him over the course of a few months as he fights with his friends and assistants, avoids publicists, agitates journalists and interviewers, and tries to track down producer Sean Combs (a.k.a. "P. Diddy") to begin working on his record. A few live rap performances do not go as well as hoped, and in his private hours, Phoenix swings from exaltation to rage. Everything culminates in his infamous February, 2009 appearance on the David Letterman show. Will Phoenix continue along this self-destructive path, or will he find his place in the world?

Casey Affleck's direction is intimate, but not exactly pretty. The sound is not good, and Phoenix's songs are usually muddled (and what is audible sounds awful). The film itself is sporadically funny, and the star's behavior is so abominable that it's both fascinating and aggravating. One can almost begin to feel sorry for him; he's clearly crying out for something, but he's so abrasive and selfish that many will not want to stick around. If the film is a hoax, then this is the performance of Phoenix's career.

Note: Affleck revealed in an interview after the film's release that the entire thing was, indeed, a hoax. Or, rather, an elaborate practical joke, or a stunt, or what have you. It will be interesting to see what kind of a shelf life this "documentary" has, or if anyone cares anymore...

See my reviews of Phoenix's films: To Die For (1995), The Yards (2000), Gladiator (2000), Quills (2000), Buffalo Soldiers (2001), Signs (2002), Brother Bear (2003), The Village (2004), Hotel Rwanda (2004), Ladder 49 (2004), Walk the Line (2005), We Own the Night (2007), Two Lovers (2009)

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