Is it real? Or is it a hoax? That is the question that is supposed to be nagging at you throughout I’m Still Here, the fake documentary about Joaquin Phoenix’s supposed shunning of Hollywood and his unkempt, talentless attempt to become a hip-hop star. The answer, released only a week or so after the film, is that it was all a hoax. Phoenix’s brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, and Phoenix himself “came clean” about it in much-publicized explanations.
So, it’s a hoax.
Either way, it’s a tedious and annoying film, following Phoenix being an asshole to his assistants, doing drugs, hiring prostitutes, and rapping badly. What was meant to be perhaps an Andy Kaufman-like “performance”, an “in character” performance, somehow shedding a dark, ironic commentary on Hollywood and its trappings is really a brutally indulgent and tedious film. And perhaps most ironically, since supposedly much of the Hollywood elite who appear in the film, such as Sean “P. Diddy” Combs and David Letterman, were all in on the joke. So the hoax played out on the media and those who follow the media, not on any Hollywood elite.
I was reminded of a joke from Family Guy in which it’s revealed that Fred Savage is actually Rush Limbaugh, Michael Moore, and a number of other celebrities, and that they are just characters that he plays. Lois, who discovers this, says, “Fred Savage is the greatest actor in the world!” And Fred replies, “That’s all I ever wanted anyone to know.”
Somehow, one can imagine Phoenix and Affleck, not so humbly aspiring to such in making this film. It’s an atrocity, really, a major waste of time.