Rated R for language, sexual situations and nudity, 108 minutes
Rambling, pointless Phoenix doc "I'm Still Here"
"I'm Still Here" is the new documentary that focuses on Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix's strange transition from movie actor to aspiring rapper. Meandering and a bit absurd, it does have some entertaining moments as it blurs the line between documentary and mockumentary, but it's largely an afterthought since Phoenix's attempts to become a rapper were so public.
Phoenix abruptly announces his "retirement" from film acting to focus on a career in rap music. He self-produces a few tracks and attempts to get help from famous rapper and performer Sean "P. Diddy" Combs. All the while, his personal life seems a total meltdown as he seemingly lets go of himself to a pudgy, dishelved grump who screams and degrades his assistants. He's actually a decent musician who can't seem to get his personal life under control, which is spiraling out of control in the public eye.
Phoenix's best friend and brother-in-law Casey Affleck (the actor of "Gone Baby Gone" and Ben's younger bro) directs the pointless, often strange documentary that has a few entertaining moments, especially as Phoenix lets himself go, but it's also sad, self-absorbed and likely a big act. The now-parodied appearance on "David Letterman Show" is given ample time in the last act, not to mention all the jokes that it inspired.
Because "I'm Still Here" blurs the line between real and fake and because Phoenix's meltdowns were so well-chronicled, the audience may have a hard time showing any sympathy for Phoenix. It's "been there, done that" feel grows old and very repetitive by the end, even after an on-stage meltdown while attempting to perform. Given the fact that Phoenix hasn't released an album (or a movie for that matter) and he's already cleaned himself up speaks to the fact that this is indeed a big hoax or a diversion for the award-winning actor.
A scene of defecation on Phoenix's face and a couple of needless frontal male nudity don't really add to the film, either. Phoenix is a decent actor and from what we can tell, maybe a decent musician if he really decided to go that way, but joke or not, he comes across as a real ass and a mess personally. Maybe Phoenix and Affleck haven't really let us in on the joke yet, and one that requires explanation. And we all know when you have to explain a joke, it ceases to be funny.