By special request of J. at Resurrection Songs! This is an old review that I wrote when the Blu-ray of I’m Still Here was released. I have since sold the movie and have no good way of re-watching in order to ensure I still feel the same way about it. Hence, this review was written in 2010 and may or may not reflect my opinions if I saw the movie again….
I’M STILL HERE (2010 Magnolia)
Directed by Casey Affleck
I can’t stand today’s media as much as the next guy, so when Casey Affleck and Joaquin Phoenix revealed that they just “punk’d” the media in a big way, I was curious about the results. Joaquin faked a major meltdown in front of the world, pretending that he was retiring from acting to become a rapper. His rapper persona, “JP”, grew out a long straggly beard and hair to feign mental illness.
The movie never addresses the issue of “fake/real”. As far as the film is concerned, Affleck doesn’t let on. It was only after the fact that they both let the cat out of the bag.
Things start out innocently enough. “JP” reveals that he’s become interested in music and wants to concentrate on that. As the beard expands, so does the odd behaviour. Weird, disjointed and off-rhythm raps, dirty clothes, and the beard continue to grow. The infamous Letterman appearance follows and this is when most people heard of Phoenix’s breakdown. The media reports, which immediately follow his public television “meltdown”, are covered as well.
JP gets frustrated trying to find a producer, finally getting some interest from P. Diddy. Trying to hook up with Diddy is damn near impossible, but when he does, Diddy is interested. One song, “Compli-fuckin-cated”, could have been a novelty hit for real. When it comes time for concerts, the stage gigs don’t go well, as JP is heckled by the crowd. Can JP redeem his rap career and finally begin to express himself in a meaningful way? If the drugs don’t get to him first, maybe.
I’m Still Here wasn’t a bad film. It was definitely a unique film; I’m just not sure how much entertainment value it had. Pranks tend to go best when they are short and sweet,and to the point. When they last a year and become a full length movie, the lines between prank and reality are blurred (which I’m sure was part of the point). I admit that Phoenix did outdo himself, creating this character based on himself, and living with it for this time, never breaking character in public. The problem is, while technically it is a great achievement, as a character JP isn’t all that interesting. As a breakdown, we’ve seen far more interesting real ones in recent years. Hard to top Britney shaving her head, you know?
Spacehog fans will enjoy Antony Langdon’s appearance as a personal assistant to JP. Royston Langdon contributed to songwriting.
The Blu-ray bonuses are generous, with all sorts of featurettes and deleted scenes with commentary. Perhaps they will shed some light on the process. The movie hasn’t clicked with me, but I’ll give it another shot. It is a strange animal after all.