Friday, September 10, 2010

I'm Still Here

Though sometimes it's unclear, I'm pretty sure that the Joaquin Phoenix film "I'm Still Here" is manufactured and untrue. The drama betwixt Phoenix and one of his assistants, Antony Langdon, as well as the scenes with Ben Stiller, P. Diddy, and Edward James Olmos (among others), aren't particularly convincing. Stiller's believable only if one interprets that he retaliated by poking fun at Phoenix during the Oscars. But, sadly, for all we know, the film could have in fact have been shot after the fact and spliced together to make us believe it happened in this way.

This film shows Phoenix (who, as people said, turned from an actor into a musician to apparently show the real Joaquin) from his homes in LA to NY to performances in Miami and back again, swearing like a mad dog, pot smoking and bouncing off the walls from drug abuse, rapping lyrics constantly to his "caretaker," berating his assistant for selling stories to the press about him being a phony, laughing hysterically with director Casey Affleck (which is actually pretty funny), talking to Affleck about stupid things, etc. In the first 3/4, it's entertaining but sloppily put together, while in the final quarter, it's finely made (and a little affecting) but then kinda plodding. A reverse.

Anything that could be said in real favor of the film, anything to make it a success, is put to rest by the fact that it's possibly fake. For example, I am tempted to say that it gives new perspective to the interview that Phoenix gave Letterman (which is shown almost in full-length in the film). This is because Phoenix is really disappointed when he comes into the interview, since he's just basically been told he's not as worthy as he thought he was. But if this was all crap, then what? Then any significance or perspective imbued in that meaning doesn't really matter, right? If it's real, that's one thing. But if not... Phoenix is somewhat convincing in these moments if he's pulling an act, though, so that this doesn't seem as prescient while watching, not as it does when thinking back on it, when some memories diminish and other thoughts triumph. I started to have my doubts about my doubts as the film came into its last quarter, which is perhaps a success of Affleck and Phoenix if they want to try to trick you into thinking it's a documentary. But I'm having my doubts about my doubts about my doubts. I don't think it's real, for realz.

This review has been like the critical equivalent of Phoenix's beard (like the film was the cinematic equivalent, although that may just be giving validity where it's not due). Sorry for the Phoenix-esque ramble. Here's a concise word: it's entertaining then plodding, never perfect but at least till a certain point you want it to continue, which is not how it is towards the end, where it starts getting repetitive. The film's too long, just like the beard. C

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