Hoax or exploitation? Phoenix doc walks the line. 


It's Affleck week at the movies. With Ben Affleck's big-budget heist movie The Town flooding theaters, little brother Casey's directorial debut, I'm Still Here — a documentary portrait of actor Joaquin Phoenix's bizarre, self-imposed exile from the film business — slips onto a single screen.

No follower of celebrity gossip, I was barely aware that Phoenix had been missing. I vaguely remembered media reports that he wanted to pursue a hip-hop career and saw second-hand accounts of his awkward appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. But Phoenix's last — final? — acting performance, in the indie Two Lovers, screened in Memphis just last year. And since I'm not at all a fan of Phoenix's two mannered Oscar-nominated performances — in Gladiator and Walk the Line — I wasn't particularly interested in his whereabouts.

This is one of the potential problems with I'm Still Here — an intimate, fly-on-the-wall portrait of Phoenix's descent into beard cultivation, snortable drugs, and slurred hip-hop. You may find yourself simultaneously drawn to some of the wild and funny things that happen on-screen while also wondering why you should care about Phoenix's apparent self-destructiveness.

Unless, of course, it's all an elaborate hoax. The film pushes back against this notion, including a testy filmed interview with an Entertainment Weekly editor after the magazine cited anonymous sources in reporting that Affleck and Phoenix were perpetrating a hoax. But there's also plenty of evidence to the contrary. For one thing, the closing credits list Affleck and Phoenix as co-writers. Beyond that, it's hard to imagine why Affleck, Phoenix's brother-in-law and longtime friend, would capture some of this material on camera — Phoenix snorting drugs, cavorting with prostitutes, vomiting backstage after a disastrous debut concert, having an anxiety attack after his Letterman appearance — if everything is completely real. Doing so seems too cruel to be credible.

Ultimately, I'm Still Here is either exploitation or gonzo satire on Hollywood hubris and celebrity lifestyle — taking the likes of Borat and Curb Your Enthusiasm to a new extreme. If it's the former, it's unnerving, engrossing, car-crash cinema ­— the worst thing that ever happened to Phoenix. If it's the latter, it's pretty easily the best thing he's ever done.

I'm Still Here

Opening Friday, September 17th

Ridgeway Four


I'm Still Here (2010/I)
Rated R · 108 min. · 2010
Official Site: www.imstillheremovie.com
Director: Casey Affleck
Producer: Amanda White
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix

Now Playing

Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for I'm Still Here (2010/I)

Comments (2)

Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-2 of 2

Add a comment

    • The Florida Project

      Orlando grifters live on the edge in director Sean Baker’s follow up to Tangerine.
    • Blade Runner 2049

      A science fiction masterpiece with an Elvis cameo
    • American Made

      Tom Cruise is at his best playing wily Arkansan drug smuggler Bobby Seal.


Beyond the Arc

Grizzlies 111, Warriors 101: Five Thoughts

Fly On The Wall Blog

A Post About Gluten Free Strippers and Effing Traffic

Music Blog

A Week's Tribute to Jimmie Lunceford

News Blog

MATA Proposes to End Ikea Route, Alter Others

Beyond the Arc

Beyond the Arc Podcast #84: The Dillon Brooks Era

Tiger Blue

#25 Memphis 42, Houston 38

Music Blog

Butthole Surfers and Bad Seeds Salute the Man in Black

Music Blog

Soulsville USA Festival Lights Up McLemore Ave.


More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation