Joaquin Phoenix is an interesting guy, but it’s a shame that his vanity projects are so close to reality that they just become boring. His work in I’m Still Here follows Phoenix’s “retirement” from acting and his pursuit of a career in the music industry. We see Phoenix “spit lines” (that’s the phrase I’ve been told is hip) and write his own music, compiling with rapper P. Diddy. It’s a strange experiment in how the media perceives reality, and for that I can give I’m Still Here nothing but praise as it does technically succeed in its efforts.
But the blend between reality and fiction is far too blurry, and this makes the pseudo-documentary come across as both genuine and laughable all at once. Such a strangely uninteresting mix, maybe due to the fact that it just reaffirms the almost attention-based baiting of the celebrity status. I’m a fan of Phoenix, but a pet project such as this comes off as fool-hardy at best, especially with staged scenes that include Ben Stiller, Casey Affleck and a variety of other famous faces.
Presumably the confusion and wonder of figuring out whether or not this was fact or fiction has affected my rating somewhat. But it’s the distinguishability of the piece that would make or break its watchability. If I had known this was a work of fiction, an act created by Phoenix to lure out the media masses to prove a point, then I would’ve applauded it for its success. But that’s not really the focus of the movie, instead spiralling into fictionalised scenes of Phoenix doing drugs, hiring prostitutes and having a man defecate on his face.
A mockumentary that manages to both excel in its aims but miss its target audience, I’m Still Here swerves between subliminal understanding and downright stupidity. Phoenix’s commitment to the documentary is both foolhardy and oddly admirable, taking two years out of a very successful career to pull a stunt he must’ve thought were genius. But he succeeded, technically. Not in making a good movie, but in fooling the world into thinking he would never act again.