Related Articles: Movies, All

Iím Still Here

Phoenix at the Brink?

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars.

Viewing the public meltdown of Hollywood stars has become so commonplace that itís pretty much expected from anyone who has been in the public eye for more than about 15 minutes.

Itís seemingly become a strategy ó along with sex tapes ó for those who sense their star may be dimming to get back into the limelight. In Iím Still Here, we see one of the most bizarre public meltdowns ever captured on film with actor Joaquin Phoenix.

Or is Iím Still Here simply a brilliantly conceived hoax and some of the best method acting ever seen? The fact that itís extraordinarily challenging to say one way or the other tends to suggest that what first-time director Casey Affleck constructed lies somewhere in between.

Phoenix comes across as addled, unhinged, and deeply troubled from the very first frame. Meandering through a haze of pot smoke, eight balls, and hookers (or so we are led to believe), Phoenix retires from acting to pursue a career as a hip hop artist. Surrounded by an entourage of friends and enablers, Phoenix becomes a caricature of Hollywood midlife crisis and excess.

Iím Still Here elicits a few uncomfortable laughs initially as a result of Phoenixís behavior, but the laughs soon dissipate as it becomes clear that what we are viewing simply cannot be all fabrication and this is what disturbs most about the film because it is impossible to believe that Phoenixís distended stomach, matted hair, and incomprehensible ramblings are all brilliant method acting. The man is troubled.

But, some of Iím Still Here must be manufactured. How could Casey Affleck (Phoenixís brother in law) in good conscience have captured all the disturbing and inappropriate behavior Phoenix exhibits knowing how bad it would make Phoenix look? There are hints throughout the film that suggest at least some of the film is fabricated. Including a very pointed comment Phoenix makes to one of his lackeys about his lack of contributions or ďbits.Ē

Ultimately, itís this straddling of the real and fictional that keeps one watching this runaway, narcissistic train wreck from hell. Whether itís real or not, Iím Still Here is unequivocally disturbing. It appears Affleck and Phoenix may be trying to make a statement, albeit awkwardly, about the excess of Hollywood, our preoccupation with the private lives of celebrities, and/or something in between.

Regardless of what the intent of Iím Still Here may be, itís a mishmash of confused, egomaniacal skits that donít coalesce into anything substantive. If Phoenix has indeed retired, it is sad given the waste of talent. But, perhaps this is what he needs. Itís clear that one way or the other Joaquin needs help.