A couple of years ago, Joaquin Phoenix stunned many when he announced that he was leaving acting. He stunned more people when he appeared on David Letterman shortly afterward, delivering an incoherent interview that seemed to both amuse and irritate the baffled late night host. The actor appeared with a huge beard and seemed entirely out of it. Many wondered whether Phoenix's act was simply that - only later did it become known that it was all being put together for a film done by Casey Affleck, who is married to Phoenix's sister.
"I'm Still Here" covers the actor as he leaves film and tries to become a rapper. Some have called it "performance art" (and if so, it would have made for a much better Sascha Baron Cohen character, as Cohen could have made something brilliant out of the situation) while some have called it a train wreck. I'll lean towards the latter, and add that the film is hard to even watch. It's difficult to watch not just because of a great actor seemingly falling to pieces (although there is that), it's also because, well, Phoenix acts like (for use of a better phrase) a giant douche. As for a celebrity falling to pieces, that sad story is broadcast to the world most weeks on one of VH1's various "Celebrity Rehab" shows.
There are some fine moments throughout the picture, although the best one remains one where Phoenix tries to talk to Sean "P Diddy" Combs about starting a rap career. Combs has a laser focus and tells Phoenix in no uncertain terms about what's required of him. Combs can't quite figure what to make of this shaggy, ragged guy babbling in his hotel room, and would clearly rather be somewhere else. The rapping from Phoenix isn't the worst rapping I've ever heard, but it's certainly nowhere near any good - the actor isn't going to become the fourth Beastie Boy anytime soon. Ben Stiller, trying to get Phoenix to take a part in "Greenberg", also has a run-in with whatever Phoenix is trying to be - and the result is, well, awkward.
The scene with Combs is one highlight in a sea of unpleasantness. The actor becomes increasingly messy and increasingly full of himself, acting terribly to those around him (which definitely gets a response later in the film) and becoming self-destructive, doing drugs and calling hookers. If Phoenix really convincingly portrayed an actor tired of the business and struggling to find himself, this might have been an interesting journey, but instead we get a narcissist whose ego and drama make for dull, depressing viewing.
It's a hoax? Then what was the point? If there's commentary about the realities of fame, the way that Phoenix acts takes away from it - waaaah, I'm a rich actor who acts like a spoiled nutjob when no one takes me seriously as a rapper. Fascinating. Again, some are going to find more to this - performance art, some sort of grand experiment - but I just found it a waste of time.
VIDEO: "I'm Still Here" is presented in 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen. Filmed with a gritty, documentary style, the varying quality is certainly to be expected. Much of the movie looks at least mildly soft and sometimes even a bit hazy. Colors occasionally appear muddy and smeared, as well. Overall, the presentation appears to be an accurate portrayal of the intended look.
SOUND: The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is similarly scuzzy, but remains clear enough to understand conversations and the few performances.
EXTRAS: A director's commentary and a commentary with just Affleck. We also get a ton of deleted/alternate scenes, a pair of audio conversations and an interview.
Final Thoughts: Whatever "I'm Still Here" is - a hoax or otherwise - if there's commentary about celebrity or the world at large within (or anything to really take away from this mess) - all I found was a tedious, depressing mess.