I’M STILL HERE
* (out of 5)
September 10, 2010
Joaquin Phoenix as HIMSELF (sort of)
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Directed by: Casey Affleck
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
A couple years back when I heard that Joaquin Phoenix had announced that he was quitting acting to pursue a career in hip-hop music, I really didn’t give a crap.
Almost two years later, following an implosion on David Letterman, jokes in the press and apparently several godawful live performances, I still don’t.
“I’m Still Here” is Casey Affleck’s documentary about the supposed real-life events behind this transformation. But it doesn’t take any knowledge of the situation or even a mea culpa by the director to see the painfully obvious fact that it was a big put-on from frame one.
If Andy Kaufman had made a movie about his wrestling career in the 80s, it would have ended up much like this constant source of humiliation of Phoenix in the film. The reality is that fewer people cared about Phoenix’s transformation than anyone cared about Kaufman’s cross-gender wrestling league.
But let’s not even talk about this as an obvious fake-out from the beginning. Let’s discuss whether this is even an entertaining film. After all, who didn’t know that “Borat” or “Bruno” were an exercise in the alter-egos of Sacha Baron Cohen. The fact is that even if something’s a joke or a hoax, it can still be fun to watch after you know it’s all fake.
Sadly, “I’m Still Here” isn’t entertaining at all, regardless of whether you believe it to be true or not. Instead, it comes across as a bunch of talentless high school kids trying to make their own home-grown version of “Jackass.”
Sure, if you want to see a pot-bellied Joaquin Phoenix talk at length about how much he wants to sniff a hooker’s butthole, or if you want to hear really really really terrible hip-hop music, or if you want to watch someone poop on Phoenix’s face (or rather claim to poop on his face because the camera angle revealed nothing of the sort), then run-don’t-walk to this movie. Otherwise, spend your money on something more entertaining.
The problem with “I’m Still Here” in comparison to films like “Borat” and “Bruno” or even “The Blair Witch Project” is that there’s nothing likeable about anyone in the film. You don’t care for Phoenix. You don’t even care for him to fail enough to watch him implode. We all like to watch celebrities make fools of themselves. Why else would Paris Hilton, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan catch our attention in the headlines. But Phoenix and his two Oscar nominations just isn’t all that interesting if he’s not playing a Roman emperor or a country music legend.
In the end, “I’m Still Here” plays like a bad April Fools joke by someone who insists it’s not an April Fools joke. Sure, Phoenix fully commits to the part of his own worst nightmare, but there’s not a genuine scene in the film.
And in the end, the film is boring, and that’s the worst sin a film like this can commit.