Today I saw the documentary I'm Still Here about the Joaquin Phoenix's career transition.
Casey Affleck directs this sad film about the fall of a once-great actor through biased eyes (he married Phoenix's sister, Summer, in 2006) and as a result the story feels too calculated to be authentic, even if it's not a hoax.
The story begins with childhood footage of the famous Phoenix siblings performing a song-and-dance routine for a sidewalk full of gawkers. You get the sense perhaps you're supposed to pity these kids, as if they had no choice, but from all I've read of their commune-like upbringing, it's hard to believe that was the case.
Joaquin's older brother River was the true star of the family, and had it not been for his senseless fatal overdose, probably would've become one of the greatest actors of our time. Joaquin has never matched that magnitude of talent, but he's certainly displayed the potential to (he's been nominated twice for an Oscar).
In 2008, after receiving praise for his work in the critically acclaimed Two Lovers, Joaquin allegedly decided to quit acting once and for all, and begin a recording career in hip-hop. The fact that he commissioned Affleck to begin filing at precisely this time is why I say "allegedly."
He plays to the camera as someone who is "on" in every frame. Whether he's doing lines of cocaine (yes, I thought this was especially tasteless considering the manner in which his brother died), dancing and fondling hookers at his house, or ranting at one of his many pointless assistants, he's undoubtedly performing.
There are a series of funny exchanges between Phoenix and Sean "P Diddy" Combs, who is too smart not to notice that his entire genre of music may be mocked by Phoenix if he consents to produce him. Joaquin is disrespectful, showing up late and unprepared, and Combs gives it right back to him in the form of much-needed tough-love lecturing. It was the best part of the film.
In addition to that train wreck, there are plenty more (the now famous Letterman appearance; a scorned assistant retaliating in the most vile way imaginable), which makes this entire documentary nothing more than a meandering reality show. And no, I didn't appreciate the "bathroom" scenes.
I'm Still Here is meant to leave you wondering if it was all a hoax or if Phoenix was really delusional enough to think he could transition from being a serious, successful actor to a flashy, hip-hop star overnight.
I'm sure (and hopeful) it's probably the former, but whatever the case, I like Phoenix a hell of a lot less after seeing it.