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Marina Antunes [Celluloid 09.21.10] movie review news documentary

Year: 2010
Director: Casey Affleck
Writers: Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: Marina Antunes
Rating: 7 out of 10

Is it real? Is it fake? The real question we should be asking about Casey Affleck’s directorial debut I’m Still Here is: does it matter? The answer to that is no. It doesn’t matter because regardless of whether Joaquin Phoenix really lost his mind or simply pretended to, their project, which happens to look like a film, works as both a piece of entertainment and as a testament of the decay of celebrity.

Watching JP, as he likes to call himself now that he’s a “struggling” hip-hop artist, go from a dude with a noble idea of trying to break down the walls of the entertainment business to discover himself and create something that he’s proud of to a winy cry baby that burns every bridge and brings only negativity into the world, I couldn’t help but revel in the genius of Affleck and Phoenix’s project. On the one hand it’s a vilifying look at the inner workings of Hollywood where stars stay in the best hotels, get ushered around in limos and still manage to be assholes while on the other, it vilifies the lifestyle itself while creating victims of the individuals that live it; it’s not their fault they’re like this, it’s just the way the system works.

In his best role to date, Phoenix brings to life a run down, beaten up version of his pseudo-self; a movie star at the top of his game who feels the pressure and expectation of Hollywood so strongly that he breaks, announcing, out of the blue, that he is done with acting. Walking away from his successful career, he turns to music in an effort to make something which he feels is authentic but the path to new glory is a difficult one as rumours abound that his walk from Hollywood is a stunt. Shrouded in mystery and speculation, most of it from the machine that keeps Hollywood running: the media and fans, JP tries to kick-start his new career with little success.

It’s not the first time a star has walked away from the limelight but JP’s situation is different because he announced it to the world, a world saturated with gossip, speculation and a fervour for information that only added pressure rather than alleviated it. The result is a documentary (or a pseudo documentary depending on your approach) of a man trying to find himself. I’m Still Here can also be seen as a document of stardom and fame and though it’s not the best I’ve seen (I much prefer Denys Arcand’s Stardom), it’s a different approach and one that is both compelling and entertaining and occasionally, even sad.

At times I’m Still Here tries too hard to be artsy while at other times it traverses territory generally associated with Jackass and Borat. Though the home video of JP diving as a young child is a great introduction, the closing scene of JPs return to Panama and his wading further and further into the water until he eventually disappears feels too much like it was taken from a Malick film; it’s effective but trying too hard and at times, the entire films feels that way.

As a whole, I’m Still Here is entertaining and indeed, a fascinating look inside the mind of a troubled artist and regardless of who claims that it’s a hoax, it will be interesting to see how the public perceives Phoenix’s return and whether he can live up to his namesake and rise from the ashes to reclaim his career.

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Cyberhal (11 years ago) Reply

interesting review, thanks. They've taken a lot of heat for what they did and it's good to see a different take on it all.


timmy t (11 years ago) Reply

Pass. Looked shitty when some people were actually buying it and it looks shitty now.


Lenman (11 years ago) Reply

Still not sure how this film fits this site. I know you need to broaden your fild but this jsut doesn't feel like it fits at all.


donc48 (11 years ago) Reply

When I first heard about this it sounded like more self-indulgent tripe out of tinsel town. I read on Yahoo Casey Affleck went broke making this puppy, and his career is pretty much a big steaming pile of you know what. I agree with Timmy, this is dog crap, what surprised me was so many believed it. I knew critical thought was a dying but this was scary. Also Lenman I also made the pretty much the same comment many, many, months ago, just enjoy the sick twisted ride.

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