Joaquin Phoenix doc 'I'm Still Here': Portrait of a prankster?
Is “I’m Still Here,” Casey Affleck’s documentary about Joaquin Phoenix, for real? Or is it an elaborate piece of Andy Kaufman performance art? I’m inclined to believe it’s somewhere in the middle — a sincere chronicle of Phoenix’s cold shoulder to Hollywood, heightened by the sort of posing and creative license that comes with the territory of reality filmmaking.
Affleck, who is Phoenix’s brother-in-law, follows the “Walk the Line” actor as he tries to transition from film to hip-hop music. Sporting a blob of unruly hair, Phoenix spends months recording tracks and beseeching Sean “Diddy” Combs to produce his music. But he performs disastrous shows, snorts coke, orders call girls online and harangues his friends and assistants for failing to support his arduous career transformation.
When he finally goes on the “Late Show With David Letterman” after a disastrous meeting with Combs, his seemingly stoned-out interview goes viral online — and Phoenix realizes he’s become a media joke.
What emerges from Phoenix’s eccentric moments is a fascinating and often entertaining journey into the depths of Hollywood ego. There’s something repulsive about the idea of one actor indulging another actor’s narcissism, but truth be told, this is raw, engrossing, provocative cinema, no matter if it’s real or feigned.