June 14, 2013

I'M STILL HERE Will Make You (Unjustly) Hate Joaquin Phoenix


"Did someone just human shit on me?"
I love it when actors are willing to go way the hell out on an experimental limb, and I have to give Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck credit, because if nothing else they definitely commit to this absurd charade and take it to the extreme.

But, no.  This is fucking terrible.

My reaction is certainly colored by the fact that I knew this entire actor-turned-rapper pratfall was staged from the beginning, but then again that story broke before the film ever screened for an audience.  There was such public resentment at the time that I thought perhaps being a little removed from the actual events would give me a better appreciation for Affleck and Phoenix were really going for, but such is just not the case.  We all remember Phoenix's now infamous appearance on David Letterman while promoting the film Two Lovers.  Even watching it just now it made me laugh, but that's mostly due to Letterman's sublime handling of his standoffish guest.  ("I'll come to your house and chew gum...")  Phoenix makes himself so incredibly vile and unlikable that I have to imagine his agents and publicists (who show up exasperated throughout the film) must have been crying themselves to sleep every night trying to figure out how they'd rehabilitate his image when it was all over.  (His breathtaking performance in The Master certainly helped.)  In fact, I had to keep reminding myself that the guy is just playing a character because his bearded alter ego is such a tremendous asshole that you actually start to hate Phoenix himself.  You can be pissed at him for making a subpar mockumentary, but it's unfair to judge the real Phoenix for his contrived onscreen exploits.  It's a gutsy/stupid move that probably should have backfired on him even worse than it actually did.

I enjoyed seeing Ben Stiller come over to pitch him Greenberg, and when Edward James Olmos shows up to give him emotional council, it made me wish that I could somehow convince Bill Adama to be my personal spirit animal.  On the other hand, the bits where he tries to convince Diddy to produce his album just made me pity the hip-hop impresario for somehow getting roped into this awkwardly fumbled subterfuge.  But the majority of the film's running time is filled with Phoenix and his two lackeys either fucking around in his giant house or whining about who may or may not be telling the press that he's faking the whole thing.  By the time Phoenix is on stage in Miami and fighting with hecklers, the entire affair just feels like a tremendous waste of time.

At one point, Phoenix's disgruntled assistant squats over him in his sleep and shits on his face, so at least he knows how the audience feels after watching I'm Still Here.

If you haven't seen this movie, I'm envious.

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Title: I'm Still Here
Director: Casey Affleck
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck, Antony Langdon, Sean Combs, Ben Stiller, Edward James Olmos, David Letterman
Year Of Release: 2010
Viewing Method: Netflix Instant (laptop)