I'm Still Here

Movies
5 out of 5 stars
I'm Still Here

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Is Joaquin Phoenix putting us on? After watching the terrifying, near-brilliant expos I'm Still Here, in which the Oscar nominee's public and private unraveling becomes a sick joke, the question doesn't matter. Either Phoenix mistakenly let his brother-in-law, the castrato-voiced actor Casey Affleck, film him at his absolute nadir---as a bloated, Belushi-esque gasbag---and then assemble the footage into a doc capturing Hollywood's excess at its most embarrassingly flatulent, or it's the performance of a lifetime.

Is Joaquin Phoenix putting us on? After watching the terrifying, near-brilliant expos I'm Still Here, in which the Oscar nominee's public and private unraveling becomes a sick joke, the question doesn't matter. Either Phoenix mistakenly let his brother-in-law, the castrato-voiced actor Casey Affleck, film him at his absolute nadir---as a bloated, Belushi-esque gasbag---and then assemble the footage into a doc capturing Hollywood's excess at its most embarrassingly flatulent, or it's the performance of a lifetime. Any way you slice it, Phoenix has blown open a door on celeb culture; between this rap-laden chronicle and his last official acting job, a knockout, in Two Lovers, he must be called the Brando of his generation---but even Marlon didn't allow a camera on his private island with the supersized meals.

The plummet starts innocently enough: another hoodied millionaire pacing his L.A. backyard, grousing about artistic compromise. A "dumb fucking doll" is not what Phoenix wants to be any longer. In come a phalanx of questionably talented hangers-on, musicians and personal assistants, all of them steering their boss toward a hip-hop career he appears remarkably unsuited for. (If potential producer Sean Combs is merely acting in these awkward scenes with "JP, " then we're talking about some great acting.) Between coke lines snorted and escorts fondled, there's a desperation; even Phoenix's voice becomes a strangely absorbing whinny. I'm Still Here is a picture of spoiled entitlement, but its real impressiveness comes with its unusually mature sense of pacing. You've already seen the clip of Phoenix mumbling on Letterman, easily dismissed as a stunt. But contextualized by green-room tensions, vomiting and a breakdown outside the limo, the moment feels symptomatic of a deeper ill. The audience keeps laughing, regardless.---Joshua Rothkopf

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