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MOVIE REVIEW: I’m Still Here

Joaquin Phoenix stars in a parody of a farce of a bad movie

I'm Still Here: Rates a D+.
Courtesy photo

[EDITOR'S NOTE: This review was published before director Casey Affleck disclosed that the movie was a fabrication of the life of Joaquin Phoenix.]

Beat poet Michael McClure wrote a screenplay called The Beard.

That should’ve been the title of this movie. You see, Joaquin Phoenix grew a beard and went crazy. He got a beer belly and is talking insanely. I was thinking at one point he’d end up dead in a bathtub like Jim Morrison (yep…another beard).

I wondered if when his brother River died of a drug overdose on Sunset (with Joaquin nearby), he too had a beard. I bet he did.

And speaking of River Phoenix, didn’t Joaquin learn anything from his drug use?

I was baffled as to why the actors that talked to him in this documentary (Ben Stiller, Edward James Almos), never said he’s going to end up dead if he doesn’t get his act together. Sure, it might fall on deaf ears – but I remember Tina Fey saying she told Lindsay Lohan this when she appeared on Saturday Night Live.

Oh, and on the subject of beards, smart move of producer Rick Rubin to not even meet with Phoenix regarding his rap album.

Sean Combs does, and they provide two interesting scenes. Combs notices director/cameraman Casey Affleck and asks: “What’s that movie you just did? No, not that Jesse James, that other thing.” When Affleck says, “Gone Baby Gone,” Diddy seems impressed.

Later in the movie, as he listens to the crappy CD Phoenix provides, he’s not as impressed.

Everyone saw Phoenix melt down on Letterman. Well, when you watch this movie, you realize – that was actually one of his better days.

There are rumors this movie is fake, and he and Affleck are just pulling a big one over on us. I seriously doubt that’s the case. And ya know what? Who cares.

It would be Andy Kaufman without the humor. It would be Exit Through the Gift Shop, without the talented artist. It would be Jack Ass, without people shooting and defecating on each other. Oh wait…this movie has that.

A few critics have compared this to Spinal Tap, which is odd. I did think of Tap guitarist Nigel Tufnel (Christopher Guest) when Phoenix is backstage screaming at one of his assistants “Is this a fucking joke? Do you think I’m a joke?” It was almost like the scene where Tufnel complains about the food backstage.

I can’t say I hated this, because it was an interesting train wreck to watch. In fictional movies, we have the over-the-top Mommie Dearest yelling at agents and kids, or Kevin Spacey in Swimming with Sharks, tormenting his assistant. It’s interesting to find out that in real life Hollywood, those things aren’t so far fetched (and you thought his character in Gladiator was unlikable).

I’m not sure why a photo of Lindsay Lohan with cocaine near her created an uproar, yet Phoenix is snorting coke and smoking pot on film, and nobody seems to care. Oh, he also orders call girls to his room. It’s like he’s Charlie Sheen in Joe Cocker’s body.

There’s a scene where Phoenix goes to Obama’s inauguration (uninvited), and his assistants can’t wake him up. He’s furious that he ended up at the hotel during the big event. It reminded me of the Hunter S. Thompson documentary, when Thompson was paid to cover Ali’s “Thrilla in Manilla” and was too wasted to ever leave the hotel room.

There’s another amusing scene where the biggest actors in Hollywood get together for a play, in memory of Paul Newman. Phoenix is furious that the person organizing it gets a scene with Jack Nicholson, and he has to settle for a scene with Danny DeVito. He goes on and on about DeVito. It should be Danny that’s upset.

I thought it was a nice touch having subtitles, for the few scenes where Phoenix’s mumbling gets hard to understand.

I think if the anti-drug folks see this movie, they might want to take clips of it to show to high school kids. Forget those eggs in a pan and a voiceover saying “This is your brain on drugs.” Just show any two minute clip from this movie, with the same voice over.

As the movie came to an end, I didn’t wonder if Phoenix would rise from the ashes of this meltdown to resurrect his career. When you run out of money, you go back to what you do best. And if his drug addiction gets bad, well…remember how many chances Robert Downey Jr. was given?

I did wonder a few things.

Does Phoenix have any friends that aren’t on the payroll? (and will he have any of those left in the next few months).

If he wanted to delve into a music career, why not do the singer/songwriter thing? He sounded good as Johnny Cash, so perhaps an acoustic guitar instead of a beat box might suit him well.

His first song could be a cover of the Monty Python classic, but changed slightly to fit a scene that was in this documentary:

S**t on my face/and tell me that you love me.

I’m giving this a D+ (couldn’t decide whether to say “D is for Drugs” or: defecation, dumb, disaster, Diddy, etc etc).