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2.9 out of 5 stars
I'm Still Here
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48 of 58 people found the following review helpful
Madness or high-concept performance art? "I'm Still Here," the faux documentary about actor Joaquin Phoenix, is likely to baffle and divide its audience. When Phoenix decided to quit acting, and seemingly hygiene, to pursue his passion of becoming a rap star--his friend and brother-in-law Casey Affleck was there to follow and film the inevitable fall from grace. There was rampant speculation from the get-go about the legitimacy of the endeavor (especially as it was all being filmed), but the longer the debacle played out--the less it seemed to matter. Fake or real, the damage was being done. Now, almost two years later, to have the entire experience and film declared a ruse seems the ultimate act of futility. Who, exactly, is the joke on? And to what purpose?

"I'm Still Here" covers all the trappings of a celebrity life in descent. Drug use, prostitutes, public intoxication, brawling and a "star" desperate to be taken seriously despite his best efforts to act a fool--we've seen the act before in countless narrative films and fictionalized biographies. We get a repeat of the infamous Letterman interview, the concert performance that became a YouTube sensation, and the incident where Phoenix attacked a concert goer. We also get to see moments of celebrity intervention--Edward James Olmos tries the spiritual approach while Ben Stiller tries to get Phoenix back to work. Much of the film is about a scramble to get into the music industry. Phoenix aggressively pursues P. Diddy, the film's most inspired performance, who is mainly just concerned about getting paid. Now that's real! And it all concludes on a rather ridiculous "arty" note which has got to be satirical.

Affleck has maintained that this is his brother-in-law's best performance. The problem is--I don't know if I believe him, I don't know that I care, and I don't know if it matters? At some point, you have to ask yourself "what's the point?" As near as I can figure, the only analysis has "I'm Still Here" as a discussion on the nature of reality and/or the nature of celebrity. On either account, is it relevant and necessary? When it was declared "I'm Still Here" was a hoax, that really doesn't change much of the on-screen content. Phoenix deconstructed his life on camera and those bad acts were put in the film. Even if some of the private incidents were staged (who knows? who cares?), the public behavior earned Phoenix notoriety as a drug addled buffoon. So whether he was living the life depicted or "acting" like he was living the life depicted, there isn't much real difference. What's that say about reality? Not so sure. And with celebrity meltdowns almost a monthly occurrence, does a "fake" one merit much interest? Not so sure.

The alternate option, and the one I tend to gravitate towards, is that it's all really quite meaningless in the long run. I think Affleck's "truthful" revelation while the film was in limited release was meant to fuel interest and debate. Duh? Fine, then, let's set a different set of standards. As a fictional experiment, I still think the film and its topic play out too often in real life to be particularly revelatory here. In terms of entertainment, I'd make the same argument. At best, I'd say that "I'm Still Here" is a fascinating excursion in self-indulgence both by Phoenix and Affleck. Whether that's enough will depend on your interest in the pair. I was mildly interested when all is said and done. KGHarris, 10/10.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on August 1, 2011
Among mockumentaries, I'm Still Here holds a unique place. It is brilliantly made, a clever parody of celebrity, and the culmination of a extended real world prank by Joaquin Phoenix as he very publicly announced his retirement from acting and into a hip hop career. As directed by Casey Affleck, it catches the vanity and self-entitlement of celebrity with a knowing sense. After all Phoenix comes from a life in the spotlight, one that took his brother's life, and Affleck, the lesser known than brother Ben, is no slouch in terms of talent and brains. So they fashion a cunning end to Phoenix's prank. At the time this was released, many still believed that he had lost his mind. For a year the public worried that this talented actor had really lost it. All your worst assumptions and emotions about the privileges of being a celebrity are tweaked in this film. The viewer became complicit in the the prank because we were had. It is a brilliant and unique idea.
But the film holds up on its own, too. Like 'Exit Through the Gift Shop' by Banksy, it raises wonderful questions on art and life, celebrity and talent, by personally putting the filmmaker's, or artist's reputation on the line. And look for an great performance by Sean Combs (P. Diddy) as a hip hop entrepreneur who brilliantly parodies and plays with our expectations of Diddy himself.
The message? We don't know these people, so perhaps we ought to give up the judgements we make of these celebrities and stars with whom we hold no real affiliation. After all, they are just like us they can be flawed - even if they are richer - a lot richer - more respected, more beautiful, and more privileged that we the huddled masses.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on September 26, 2010
Watched this twice (PPV). If it's a gag, it was cleverly conceived and brilliantly executed. If it's a gag, it's right up there with "This Is Spinal Tap".

Now, if it is not a gag, well, Joaquin Phoenix has transformed himself into the ultimate in Hollywood cliches. The misunderstood actor who wants to move past the restrictions of Hollywood and "express his art". If it is not a gag, the real issue is that Phoenix is a dope addict and a rotten person indeed...but it's almost certainly a gag.

The highlights:

* About to meet P Diddy, Phoenix tells his companion: "Don't tell them you're from New Jersey".
* There are a lot of scenes with men lying around on beds talking. One particular friend likes to expose his genitals for the cameras. There is another scene of a naked friend running around while Phoenix playfully chases him with a towel, popping the friend's hind end. As the movie progressed, I half expected a gladiator scene. Gag or not, there is a subtext here. Not sure whether that was intended or not.
* Phoenix snorting coke (or powdered sugar) off a hooker's breasts.
* Ben Stiller (in on it?) trying to convince Phoenix to play in his new movie. Phoenix accuses Stiller of "playing Ben Stiller" and that is exactly what he is doing. It was the same semi-loser character from all of his films.
* Phoenix fleeing a movie premier and fighting furiously to get through a door with a huge "this is not an exit" sign on it.
* The actual hip hop performances. Phoenix is like the huge drunk guy on karaoke night storming the stage to sing "Free Bird". The best indicator this is actually a big gag.
* Edward James Olmos delivering a hilariously kung-fu-circular-zen pep talk about drops of water vaporizing and ending up back at the top of the mountain (or something like that). Pricelessly hysterical.
* A much put upon and harassed hanger-on who, having been pushed to his limits by the insane rants of River's brother, sneaks into Phoenix's bedroom and defecates on his face. Perhaps this was the sub for the gladiator scene.
* One of the hanger's on trimming Phoenix's back hair.
* Phoenix ranting (there are lots of rants), while being transported via rental mini-van, that "Leo" is traveling on private jets. Then, singling out his non-movie star cohorts, informs them he (Phoenix) understands that jet set world and they do not...thus, they are ruining his life.

It's all hilarious, even if - not very likely - it's meant to be serious. It's like an Oliver Stone film: incredibly entertaining, but having little to do with truth. It is definitely worth a look and, not to beat a dead horse, if it is all a gag, it is a stupendous five star effort...and it is almost certainly a gag. If, perchance it's legit, Phoenix has to be one of the worst human beings not convicted of a violent crime. A colossally self involved cliche who should be forced to work construction for a year.

...but it has to be a gag.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2010
I know it's not much of a compliment to say that Joachin Phoenix is utterly convincing as a petulant, self-deluded ***hole, but that's my verdict. It turns out that Phoenix and Casey Affleck staged this whole thing, and I suppose the triumph of it is that it doesn't ***look*** staged. Every cringe-inducing moment seemed convincing enough to me. Phoenix is, of course, playing with our perception of him. When you think about it, it's utterly rediculous that Phoenix would want to give up acting to become a rapper. However, when you think of high-profile celebrity wigouts such as what Britney Spears went through not that long ago, it isn't all that implausible that, fed enough drugs, money and gratuitous praise, someone like Phoenix could ***get it in his head*** that maybe his true calling is rap music. Stranger things have happened in real life. So the premise is just plausible enough to keep you wondering whether Phoenix is or isn't faking it, and after awhile he's embarrassed himself to such a degree that you figure no one would take a "joke" far enough to have the kind of disastrous results we see here. But Phoenix and Afflek do exactly that. I wouldn't call the finished product entirely enjoyable. Thought provoking, yes. Occasionally disgusting, yes. But enjoyable? I don't know, but that could be the whole point. I suppose this film works as a kind of twisted commentary on both celebrity and also the way "reality" is fed to us as entertainment. It's as if Phoenix has created the worst possible version of himself he and his collaborators could imagine, and run with the character. Maybe he succeeded too well, since the reception to this film hasn't exactly been celebration and acclaim. However, I have a feeling "I'm Still Here" could be a bit ahead of it's time. At the moment the very concept, never mind the excecution, is too jarring, but I think that in the future we're in for more films that consciously blur the line between fact and fiction, in which case "I'm Still Here" may eventually make more sense to more people. All in all, I have to give Phonenix and Affleck credit for sticking their creative necks out. You're probably more likely to hate this film than love it, but it does what it sets out to do. They pulled off the illusion of Phoenix destroying his professional life and coming far too close for comfort to losing his sanity. Once again, I don't know if this is a compliment or what, but I kind of want to see Phoenix's next movie just to make sure he's really all right. So maybe I'm slow, but for awhile there they sure had me fooled.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2012
I knew this was going to be good when the reviewer, in the newspaper that I was reading, was confused as to whether or not this film was 'real' or not. I go to the theater and in the very opening soliloquy I knew that, a) it was a mockumentary; and b) this was going to be a fantastic movie. Probably one of the gutsiest career moves I've seen an actor take. Brilliant. A must see for people interested in our culture's pornographic obsession with celebrity and 'reality'. In the end, the joke is very much on us and we have deserved it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on May 2, 2013
In a mildly entertaining movie, Phoenix says he's quitting acting. The media responds, most are incredulous. He says he's going to pursue his interest in hip hop. He grows his beard and stops brushing his hair. He is abusive to his assistants, in a way that only rich, entitled movie stars can be, I imagine. A story of a man lost between what he was and what he isn't, with money enough to do whatever he wants, despite the public's disapproval.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 2, 2014
Wonderful mocumentary. Phoenix is superb. His best performance ever. He is an amazing actor. I can't believe he didn't get the Oscar for Walk the line. But if you like Joaquin Phoenix you must see this. This mocumentary is funny, it's sad, it's deep...It has it all. And Phoenix is extremely good. It's worth watching just to see his performance.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 29, 2010
"I'm Still Here" is a very strange piece of filmmaking. During the making of the movie, when Joaquin Phoenix was making the rounds looking disheveled (almost homeless), behaving erratically, and telling everyone he was retiring from acting to pursue a rap career, there were 3 main theories: 1) that he was on drugs 2) that the whole thing was an elaborate hoax and 3) that he had just lost his mind. Upon the film's release, Phoenix and the film's director, his brother-in-law Casey Affleck, chose to reveal that the whole thing was, indeed, a hoax, thereby having audiences see the film knowing for sure that the antics on display weren't authentic.

So since the question on everyone's mind was solved before the film's release, how does the film stand without the mystery? Kind of so-so. Unlike Sasha Baran Coen's mockumentaries in which he plays outrageous characters meant to expose cultural hypocrisy, Joaquin Phoenix is just playing a version of himself ... which makes his erratic, self-obsessed, and spacey behavior in the film less riotous than it is just uncomfortable. Don't get me wrong, he gives a brilliant performance, one that satirizes the modern celebrity who is self-important, lacks perspective and self-awareness, and has convinced himself that fame has given him the ability to succeed at anything that tickles his fancy. By pretending to embark on a rap career when he clearly has no talent for rapping, Phoenix is a parody of all the celebrities, especially those famous for not doing much of anything, who "suddenly" think they can become musicians, actors, authors, or entrepreneurs without having any training, experience, or skill. It's just that as a whole, for all its subversiveness, the whole thing fails to be particularly engaging. Sensing this, it's almost as if Casey Affleck felt the need to add just enough shock-value stunts to the outing (gratuitous male nudity of Phoenix's assistant, Phoenix doing drugs with hookers, etc.) to keep the audience engaged.

So as a subversive satire and showcase for Joaquin Phoenix's acting chops, the film succeeds. Unfortunately, it's only sporadically entertaining. Which is why I'm giving the whole strange, audacious thing 3 stars.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on June 6, 2014
For all of you that are so offended that Casey Affleck documented his brother in laws career demise THIS WAS NOT A DOCUMENTARY. THIS WAS A COMEDY! It is pretty hilarious reading all of the righteous comments though on what this film was supposed be or not. Meanwhile the person that is leaving the review does not even know this was a joke. NO, Joaquin Phoenix did not plummet into a life of drugs, prostitutes and Bad Music. He is all well and good. He has even made several movies since this comedy. I am even more impressed than I was before with his acting. Even Sean Puffy Combs or whatever is name is this week was good in this movie. He was very convincing as the all and only about money producer, which I have a feeling he is not far from or really just played himself. So, to all of you one star people that had no clue as to what you were even watching, THE JOKE IS ON YOU! Joaquin Phoenix is still an employed brilliant actor and has not fallen from grace. He was even nominated for an Oscar as Best Actor in The master. I hardly call that falling from grace.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2012
Unreal. This was the funniest movie I've seen since Borat. The level of awkwardness in the scenes is only matched by Sacha Baren Cohen. Pure brilliance.
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