By: Addison Wylie
Andy Kaufman, Tom Green, and Sacha Baron Cohen are three comics who share a similar sense of humor. The comedians take on a radically different persona and propose situations or questions to unsuspecting individuals. This act usually reveals authentic awkward and confused reactions from the public. With features like Bruno and more-so Borat, Cohen has been able to take this specific type of comedy and use it to confront audiences with topics such as underlining racism and homophobia in a society. Now, it appears that actors Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck want to follow in Cohen’s footsteps and make a film that will polarize audiences by taking them into a grungy world of an actor’s troubled existence and potential midlife crisis as well as make movie goers laugh. It’s disappointing to report that Affleck’s directorial debut, I’m Still Here, is a complete and utter directionless mess.
It was hard to find someone on Earth who thought Joaquin Phoenix was sane ever since his guest appearance on David Letterman promoting his latest film Two Lovers. Discrepancies in Phoenix’s personality appeared even before that television appearance. In 2008, when Phoenix stated to the media that he intends to retire from acting, it was news that immediately made everyone curious. What set him off? What will Phoenix do now? Later, when the disoriented actor declared that he was planning to become a rapper, reality started to smell fishy. Phoenix then started showing up at clubs, performing, causing outrageous stirs in outdoor and indoor settings and he immediately made people turn on him. He started looking like a mountain man with his enormous beard and no one could understand a word he was saying when he mumbled about his latest projects. So, what exactly made Phoenix snap? In this faux documentary, Affleck documents Phoenix’s decisions as well as his career and his personality highs and lows over a span of a year.
Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck want to illustrate a portrait of a troubled actor and show just how one would feel if they thought they were being toggled like a marionette in their profession. Those topics, even though they sound self-righteous, could be dealt with appropriately. However, Affleck and Phoenix bring up these discussions infrequently and want to focus more on scenes where Phoenix is publicly humiliating himself by falling over, puking, yelling, doing drugs, and recording obviously terrible hip-hop music. Whether the duo were dealing with an actual script or outlines with improvised dialogue, the material lacks motivation or depth. There is not one instance where an audience could believe Phoenix’s new goal to become a musical artist. The film provides no background as to why his interest would be geared towards that genre of music and Affleck neglects to give Phoenix any driving force. Even when Letterman asks Phoenix why he wants to become a rapper, Phoenix replies by saying “I don’t know”. This is one of the many inconsistencies that appear in I’m Still Here.
Cheap Jerseys From China
The one somewhat positive attribute about the film is that the production was able to roll with the punches the media threw at it. When reports started appearing online stating that Casey Affleck was filming these humiliating incidents, word was quickly spreading that Affleck was editing these events into a feature film and that Phoenix’s deterioration was a hoax. The film incorporates these reports into it’s story and it adds to Joaquin’s frustration in regards to how no one is taking his new aspirations seriously. However, everything seems to upset Joaquin’s character which makes these seemingly alarming events blend into everything else that is aggravating him. These publicity scares are never used to their full extent and it’s a shame because the film could’ve easily had more fun with these misfortunes.
Even though Affleck is able to weave real life events into his film, another thing that bothered me was how I felt sorry for people who got unintentionally roped into the making of the mockumentary. The audience watching I’m Still Here never knows who exactly is in on the joke but in large crowd scenes, it’s apparent as to who has the wool pulled over their eyes. A scene where Phoenix is performing and somewhat winning over his club audience with his rhymes is quickly turned into a mean spirited escapade when Joaquin leaps into the crowd knocking people over. When unsuspecting people are being physically abused for laughs, it’s a sign of blatant ignorant filmmaking; where the minds behind the film are using a last resort to create humor. Affleck and Phoenix are completely unaware of how guerilla shock comedy works. Even with scenes involving exchanges between Phoenix and his celebrity friends are poorly executed due to the fact that the other actors fumble with the task of creating interesting improvisation.
Judging by their body of work and by their professional attitudes, it’s baffling to realize two competent actors assembled this crass garbage. Affleck and Phoenix wish to offend people with scenes of gross out humor, including a scene where someone defecates on a sleeping Joaquin Phoenix, and crude language, including a scene where Phoenix orders for prostitutes and then proceeds to proclaim how much he would like to sniff their buttholes, but the minds also wish to shine a light and tell an audience about how tough a Hollywood actor’s life is. It’s from there that the film begins to dissect ideas about one’s own existence. It’s a tale that soon turns into a self congratulatory, trashy vanity project of the highest order. With it’s ham-fisted storytelling methods, its juvenile sense of humor, and a misdirected and loud lead performance, I’m Still Here is the cinematic equivalent to a child who hasn’t taken his Ritalin and is trying to get everyone’s attention by yelling and knocking stuff over.