I’M STILL HEREStarring Joaquin Phoenix, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs
Directed by Casey Affleck
The cat came out of the bag two days prior to I’m Still Here’s Vancouver press screening. Confirming what many suspected after his infamous Late Night with David Letterman appearance two years ago, Joaquin Phoenix’s descent from respected actor to drug-addled wannabe rapper was all a hoax, captured on film by fellow actor (and brother-in-law) Casey Affleck and packaged as a faux-documentary that’s short on charm and long on self-indulgent wankery.
The mockumentary’s opening hints at its potential for clever social commentary: Phoenix making the press rounds, reminding the audience that famous people aren’t just making entertainment or art, but are subject to the relentless monotony of self-promotion. What unfolds from there is two hours of Phoenix fake-pontificating about the meaninglessness of everything (grand, sweeping, incoherent statements are Phoenix’s specialty here), spewing verbal abuse at his “friends,” snorting drugs, cavorting with prostitutes, and waxing fondly about “women’s butt holes.” The film’s central plot, with Phoenix desperately trying to get his terrible rap music heard by Sean “P. Diddy” Combs, is sort of amusing thanks to Combs’s performance. (Was he in on it, too? Probably. His bewildered reactions feel genuine, though.)
At best, I’m Still Here is high-octane performance art fueled by ego and self-importance that exposes society’s obsession with unravelling the celebrities we create. At worst, it’s a costly two-year in-joke that derails Phoenix and Affleck’s careers and personal lives, making the movie a mind-numbing, oh-so-meta circle of a self-fulfilling prophecy. —Andrea Warner