Sunday, 24 April 2011

REVIEW: I'm Still Here

Phoenix and Affleck team up for one of the most strangest, gossip-fulled documentaries on celebrity lifestyle that has ever appeared. In fact, it might probably be the only one ...

If you didn't hear about the whole Joaquin Phoenix meltdown then you must have been as isolated as Phoenix appears to be. Firstly, this has to be one of the strangest, yet perhaps most daring films I've seen to date. Mainly because it's presented as a factual documentary and, in terms of the public eye, it was - however, people were always questioning whether it was a hoax and this is brought up during the course of the film and dealt with at different intervals. It's a story of a man following his dream but with every obstacle in the way, including his own celebrity.

To summarise the 'plot', Phoenix has decided to retire from acting and pursue his musical ambition of being a hip hop artist, along the way he slowly self-destructs and Affleck is following him the whole time. His two 'mates' hang onto him as he delves into drugs, prostitutes and seemingly a fair bit of food as it becomes apparent his hip hop dream isn't going to happen and he returns to his father.

There's a few certain aspects here I enjoyed, the personal home video footage including the climb to the top of a tiny cliff and jumping into the pool, and water in general, is a motif that appears again and again. This idea of the infinite, of letting go, losing control and sheer bravery is something they are clearly trying to subconsciously connect you with Phoenix, that he's a tortured genius of sorts. However, it's a strange parody that actually portrays the man as a bit of a dick, but then why would he do that? It is, after all a fake. There are many signs that point to this but really it's the acting, especially of Diddy, that really makes it apparent - it's an actor's exercise and one that Phoenix took to the extreme where it filtered into real life. There's just so many questions - why hip hop? Why all the cameras (that never seem to be in shot of each other)? Why present yourself in such a way as a 'fact'? Why do it all? If we are amazed at watching a celebrity go from the high point of their career to the lowest in a short space of time, then why make it but for those people who enjoy watching just that?

The film is rather a lot longer than it needs to be, the final shot as we follow him walking into the river, or towards oblivion, is excruciatingly long for instance and is an example of the kind of melodrama that tends to pop up. He's meant to be intense but the whole thing feels unnecessarily intense, to the point where it's uncomfortable. Sure the raps, the jokes, the lifestyle makes you laugh and amazed at the same time, but really it's very much up it's own arse. If treated as an experiment on celebrity culture, on the idea of the artist and all that, I'd say it makes for an interesting case but it's not enough to keep me for the whole film and it just left me rather confused. Even the appearance of Edward James Olmos in a very Bill Adama role was enough to make me cringe, and I love that guy.

If you want to see some strange footage, if you were in any way interested in the whole drama and if you'd just like to hear Phoenix rap, then it's probably worth watching - but for anything else, or for a work of entertainment it's best to stay clear. There's only one word that can really sum up this film - weird.

Rating: 5/10


  1. I love how the bad reputation of the film keep away a positive review, even from those who liked it.
    It' clear to me that you understood and actually liked the film. So why this 5/10?
    Can't you think with your own mind?
    Also: the fake/not fake question doesn't matter at all.It doesn't take away the message of the movie.

  2. 5/10 because I didn't like it and thought it was up it's own arse, though there were elements about it I did like. I enjoyed Scream 4 more for instance. It's not a well thought out or well constructed movie.
    I can only think with my own mind I'm afraid. People who read the blog know I am not phased by the opinions of others and that a bad reputation means nothing to me as I judge it by it's own merit.
    I think the fake/not fake question is important - hence why it's addressed in the movie, in fact you could argue it's part of the message - what is real? Are we presented a reality just because it's onscreen? It can't however present itself as a documentary if it's a dramatisation, it's misdirecting the audience and the message is unclear. Feel free to shed more light on this though.

  3. I do agree that the Question-what is real?what is not?- in our reality-centred world has sense and is connected to the movie. But, fake or not argument aside, this is a portrait of a lost man. A self-centred actor who can't live beyond his celebrity world-that is of course just an illusion. This is why the movie works:everybody experienced a moment where the world that they built around just fade away.
    It also describes the absolute horror that is the real-not the glamorized side we want to see- celebrity world.
    Look how the media treated the death of Phoenix's brother and you wil further understand the reason behind thi whole charade.