Movies: I'm Still Here * *
Before I'm Still Here even arrived in Ireland, the cat was out of the bag. Although the film was originally pitched as a documentary by Casey Affleck that followed a kind of on-camera breakdown by his friend and brother-in-law Joaquin Phoenix, there were always suspicions that Affleck and Phoenix were perpetrating an elaborate hoax. Last week Affleck admitted as much, and Phoenix has now abandoned his sham career as a rap artist and announced his return to acting. Which leaves us with I'm Still Here, a strange hybrid of a film that's part documentary and part social satire.
In late 2008, Phoenix announced that Two Lovers would be his last movie as an actor, and that henchforth he'd be devoting his energies to rap music. He began letting himself go, and appeared in public in a black suit, sunglasses, tousled hair and straggly beard.
In I'm Still Here, we watch him work on some ridiculous rap songs and make excruciating pitches to industry insiders such as Sean Combs.
He also appears on The Letterman Show in a famously catastrophic interview that ends with Dave Letterman saying "we're sorry you couldn't be with us tonight".
Behind the scenes Phoenix is depicted as a brittle, unhappy dictator, who treats his assistants like slaves. There are rants and fights and cocaine binges and hotel hookers, but, as we now know, it's all fake.
At times I'm Still Here is very funny, and a point of sorts emerges after word spreads that Phoenix has apparently lost it. So instantly vicious is the internet and media response to Joaquin's career change that it makes the viewer glad to be happily anonymous.
But this insight is scant reward for a self-indulgent and ultimately pretty pointless exercise by two rich kids with a lot of time on their hands and not a whole lot to say.