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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

I’m Still Here (review)

Is it real, this documentary look into the decline and implosion of actor Joaquin Phoenix’s career over the course of a year, from his announcement that he’s quitting acting to his attempt to kickstart an unlikely rap career to his realization that his life is in the nearly the very same toilet he’s vomiting profusely into? Or it is all a put-on, a satirical approach to highlighting the foibles of celebrity and the spoiled tantrums of the rich and famous? Either way, I’m Still Here is a disaster, a bratty, self-indulgent demand to be paid attention to, complete with the expectation that it will be paid attention to, because celebrity simply really is that irresistible no matter what it’s doing: fake, genuine, there’s no meaningful difference between the two. So whether the lurid details — presented with a snickering, juvenile glee by director Casey Affleck, Phoenix’s brother-in-law, making an inauspicious debut behind the camera — of Phoenix’s cavorting with prostitutes, lurching around hotel rooms half naked railing incoherently against his detractors, or wheezing out terrible rap songs in a drug-induced haze are staged or captured actually in flagrante delicto, the impact is one and the same: with seemingly nothing authentic to offer us creatively anymore, Phoenix (Reservation Road) — and perhaps Affleck (The Killer Inside Me) — are screaming, “Look at me! I’m famous!” and supposing that they won’t be dismissed like the overindulged children they’re showing themselves to be.


Watch I’m Still Here online using LOVEFiLM’s streaming service.


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MPAA: rated R for sexual material, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some drug use and crude content

viewed at home on a small screen

official site | IMDb | trailer
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