Joaquin Phoenix resurfaces to explain his weirdness over the past year. From growing a beard, doing seemingly odd things in public, and basically acting like he was on another planet. With a camera following him around all of the time it was thought to be a publicity stunt by some. It was eventually revealed that Casey Affleck’s directorial debut was centered about Joaquin Phoenix and his trials and tribulations about leaving the acting world and showcasing himself as a hip-hop artist. I’m Still Here documents what the past year was like for the actor.
With little ado, Joaquin Phoenix continuously shows up unkempt and unruly throughout the film. Even as he is trying to get Sean “P Diddy” Combs to produce his album, Phoenix is short and untidy. When Ben Stiller tries to speak to Phoenix about offering him a movie role it just gets worse as he seems incomprehensible to everyone except himself.
There are hardly any sober moments as Phoenix continually surrounds himself by drugs and beer. If you can see past all of the hard core and nonsensical things that Joaquin Phoenix does to himself in this documentary, I’m Still Here makes several valid points even if you don’t believe the set up for a minute.
Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck have continually stated that this film is not a hoax and completely real. I don’t buy the take that what happened was Phoenix intentionally trying to reinvent himself. However the point of the movie is for the actor to use his fame as a canvas for showing people what Hollywood can do to humans.
It’s almost as if Phoenix is a Jack Kerouac anti-hero taking us on a tour of Dante’s Inferno. With Jim Morrison-like precision he forgets to say the most rudimentary things and appears angry and distraught several times in I’m Still Here. His anger is the only emotion he shows amongst many deadpan moments.
When Phoenix finally appeared “normal” earlier this year on a charity video it was assumed that his descent to madness was over. He seemed perfectly capable enough to make an appearance on film. This is why I believe that his documentary was less about himself and a career change and more about making a point.
The ideals behind I’m Still Here are two fold. First is that it’s the ultimate way for an actor to delve into a role or a character. If Joaquin Phoenix wanted to prove that he’s a true actor then he has done so. Whatever demons he needed to exorcise from his life I hope his year on film has helped make him whole. With the tragic death of his older brother in mind, I’m Still Here is a much a commentary on Hollywood’s drug culture as it is a lament of what happened to River Phoenix.
The second thing I took from this film is that of a warning to anyone who wants to achieve stardom. In stark reality Phoenix takes us to the dark underbelly of fame and wasted lives that include all of the booze and women you can handle but still no happiness.
For the filmmakers I applaud them for making such a point. As if the lessons of Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, and Errol Flynn weren’t enough then we have an actor willing to show us, the little people, what Hollywood is like. If we didn’t know this already then I really believe that this was Joaquin Phoenix showing off what it may have been close to like for what happened to River.
I’m Still Here runs 108 minutes. It’s a documentary so it gets no rating but it is definitely not for children.