Joaquin Phoenix in I'm Still Here (2010)


(director/writer: Casey Affleck; screenwriter: Joaquin Phoenix; cinematographers: Casey Affleck/Magdalena Gorka; editors: Casey Affleck/Dody Dorn; music: Marty Fogg; Runtime: 108; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Casey Affleck/Joaquin Phoenix; Magnolia Pictures; 2010)

“A bizarre documentarythat proves seeing is not necessarily believing.

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

The debut directorial effort of actorCasey Affleck, whose actor turned rapper subject Joaquin Phoenixis his brother-in-law. It chronicles how in 2008 Joaquin announcedto the press, after the release of Two Lovers, his retirement as a movie actor and spent the raucous year trying to reinvent himself as a hip hop singer. Many in showbiz thought this was a hoax (which it might or might not be), as the film follows the bloated one around in this terrifying period and we witness the twice-Oscar nominee’s appearance take on the disheveled look of a homeless unkempt bearded person, his loss of confidence in his artistic ability, the rampant use of pot and cocaine influencing his bad decision making, egotistical rants, becoming subservient to a business-like Sean “P. Diddy” Combs who he chases after to produce his debut album, treating his hangers-on and assistants with disrespect, made a fool of in his self-destructive appearance in 2009 on the David Letterman Show by the mean-spirited host’s cruel jokes at his expense, and his mediocre rapper performances in concerts in Las Vegas and Miami Beach.

With no mentorto guide the confused young man,Joaquin (or as he now calls himself JP) goes into a meltdown and his quest to find his real self seems more like a cruel joke that he undergoes as a self-deprecating act or because of a mental breakdown or to make a prankster film. It’s not a pretty film to look at, as Joaquin’s life is unraveling on film.

Because it pretends to be an honest look at a successful but petulant young actor, with full access granted to the director, we clearly see how nervous and unsure of himself JP has become and of how inarticulate he becomes when he tries to explain his reasons for the career change are to escape from being trapped like a puppet in a fraudulent career (as if the rapper world was pure bliss as opposed to his acting world!).

Whether it’s a hoax or not, in the end doesn’t matter (though odds favor it being a faux documentary). What matters is that this disturbing film depicts someone who is needy and as a public service tells us there must be a better plan on how to change careers than the way of JP. People change careers all the time for one reason or another, but I would assume those who are truly following the passions that are burning inside them will eventually make peace with themselves and be able to live with their decision and not worry what others think. The tortured actor has left for us a bizarre documentary that proves seeing is not necessarily believing and what appears on the news might not always be true. Whether or not this is the type of amateur biopic that suits your fancy, depends on what you come away with from this film or in how entertaining you find watching someone slip on a banana peel.