Written by / 4/03/2013 / No comments / , , , ,

JOAQUIN PHOENIX IN I'M STILL HERE

year: 2010 cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck, David Letterman, Ben Stiller rating: **1/2
Hey, look – it’s Zach Galifianakis doing a Charlie Sheen imitation, breaking down in front of the entire world, and for what exactly? Okay so it’s really a bearded overweight Joaquin Phoenix who, a few years after an Oscar nominated performance as Johnny Cash in WALK THE LINE, decided to take a permanent break from show business – and he wasn’t going out quietly.

Anybody remember that little kid (then named Leaf) with the robot in SPACECAMP or the troubled pre-teen who collected porno mags in Ron Howard’s PARENTHOOD? That’s the younger brother of the late River Phoenix, who first got this viewer's attention playing one of two white trash murderers in TO DIE FOR along with Casey Affleck, Ben's brother and Joaquin’s brother-in-law and, most importantly, the director/co-writer of I’M STILL HERE, a documentary, or rather, "mockumentary" about Joaquin's attempted plunge into the rap music industry.
Joaquin Phoenix attempts to impress Sean Puffy Combs
The most involving scenes has the troubled star desperately trying to impress hip hop mogul Sean Puffy Combs to produce a work-in-progress rap album, initially consisting of a few songs that Phoenix performs to unhappy audiences in random live venues. And why not – his lyrics weren’t that awful but he couldn’t carry a spoken-note, and without a script what’s an actor to do before an unruly crowd?

He returns in the masterpiece THE MASTER soon after...
Scenes where the frantic primadonna snorts coke and chews out his personal assistants are both mean-spirited and contrived. Then during moments of rogue contemplation, he really doesn’t have anything deep or meaningful to say about either music or acting.

If Phoenix is attempting humor so dry it's completely unnoticeable, he overreached: while the film seems edgy and real it's not that funny or interesting. More archive footage on the Phoenix family upbringing (as quickly shown in the prologue) or clips of his early roles could have made the project relevant to ardent cinema buffs and/or fans of JP as a hard-working cult actor who progressed into the mainstream. 
Joaquin Phoenix on The Late Show with David Letterman
The highlight is an appearance on David Letterman promoting his supposed last film TWO LOVERS. Finally some laughs occur thanks to Letterman’s ability to make the most awkward situation humorous. As the bearded and bewildered actor chews gum and has nothing to say, Letterman jabs him with one-liners, comparing his unkempt shaggy look to that of the “Uni-Bomber.” This segment feels like a devastating first date, full of edgy/uncomfortable silences, but Letterman handles the train wreck with ease.

Despite the flaws, I'M STILL HERE is not an entirely futile venture… As Phoenix descends into the scraggly abyss he seems most comfortable in, you’ll want to see how low he can go, and better yet, if any more celebrities (besides Letterman, Ben Stiller and Edward James Olmos) will try figuring out his bizarre behavior and decision to quit the one thing he’s good at: pretending to be someone else...
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