When you really think about it, it was either an absurd or a brilliant idea. The relentless, bizarre antics Phoenix pulled in the run-up to the completion of this project left everyone dazed and confused, not knowing what to make of it all. His now infamous, mumbling, cringe-worthy appearance on the David Letterman show which went on to inspire Ben Stiller’s hillarious send-up at the 2009 Oscars are just a couple of the well-known documented incidences in the rumoured “meltdown” in Phoenix’s career.
Last year Emily reviewed “I’m Still Here” and doubts were still rife as to whether or not all was what it seemed. Shortly after it’s cinematic release, the truth finally came to light and it was confirmed that this documentary was in fact a hoax afterall. This mockumentary, as further explained by Phoenix in one of the DVD’s bonus interviews with Extra’s reporter Jerry Penacoli, served to highlight Phoenix’s thirst for a complete transformation in character. His passion to create a movie unlike anything he’d been involved in previously, resulted in this unique and absurd approach to achieve this special filming experience he’d longed for with his friends. This commitment with Affleck resulted in him feeling somewhat of a hostage to the situation and once the project had finished, months after the event even, was he finally able to go back to being his true self once again.
I’m Still Here is not my cup of tea. I didn’t care for the demise of Pheonix’s caveman “character”, nor did I feel engaged enough at any point to want to feel like paying it the attention it was screaming out for. Much like a spoilt brat, I just wanted to ignore his infuriating behaviour. The only respite I felt came when the celebrities involved appeared, often providing moments of relief, sometimes comic, not always intentional. Phoenix’s acting is extremely raw and thoroughly convincing for the most part, were it not for the fact that he couldn’t string a sentence without the constant need to mumble his lines or, heaven forbid, ditch those irritating sunglasses which took up half of his already obscured bearded face. The biggest give-away into this prank were the glasses. They say that your eyes are windows into your soul, and for me, I couldn’t get a peak into his which left me feeling empty and distrustful. You’ll be thankful for the subtitles, you’re going to need them. Admirable enough it may be that he was able to truly commit to and live out this role, knowing ahead of time that the wool was being pulled over my eyes, left me feeling very jaded about it.
It’s important to acknowledge the fact that what this mockumentary does well, without the obvious antics of Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat, is cleverly take a closer look at the psychology and exploitation of “celebrity”, and the pitfalls of the industry as a whole too. Phoenix fans may well revel in this offbeat comedy and take a great deal of enjoyment in how this whole charade was magnificently pulled off. Personally, I found the overshadowing of all the drama surrounding it’s genuineness and hype far too distracting to fully appreciate it’s potential, intention and cause.
Special features and extra “random bits” include:
- Feature Commentary with Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix, Nicole Acacio, Larry McHale, Antony Langdon, Johnny Moreno, Antony Langdon, Johnny Moreno, Eddie Rouse, Matt Maher, Elliot Gaynon and Sue Patricola
- Feature Commentary with Casey Affleck
- Deleted Scenes (and commentary by Casey Affleck)
- Alternate Ending (and commentary by Casey Affleck)
- Joaquin Phoenix interview by Extra’s reporter Jerry Penacoli
- Audio commentaries with Casey Affleck