the apparently spontaneous announcement from Joaquin Phoenix, a couple of years ago or so, that he was retiring from acting is pretty well known knowledge for those that follow any sort of film news. the fact that this was part of a film project, now released under the name I'm Still Here, was for a while somewhat lesser known.
although this review will be laced with spoilers, you are perhaps for a change encouraged to read it anyway in order to make some sense of the film. not that i claim to be any sort of expert on it, but watching it with limited knowledge would strike me as being a rather frustrating experience.
nonetheless, for everything below the poster, consider yourselves the recipients of a *** SPOILER WARNING ***.
to get the obvious out of the way first, yes it's true - both director Casey Affleck and star Joaquin Phoenix have declared the whole of I'm Still Here, from the acting retirement through to the proposed rap / hip hop career of Joaquin to be a hoax. a lengthy hoax that lasted some 18 months. this would leave the question, then, of why exactly go to such elaborate lengths?
the answer, or at least the one given, was that Joaquin was struck by "just how badly acted" any given so-called 'Reality' TV show is, and he wanted to strip away the idea or notion anyone might have that what they see on these 'Reality' shows is anything but badly scripted and very badly acted trash.
whereas most would just state that in an interview, or perhaps even go and make a run of the mill spoof of the subject of their contempt, celebrated actor Casey Affleck and uber-celebrated actor Joaquin Phoenix decided to immerse themselves in the realm of creating a fake 'Reality' feature at great expense. this expense was of course financial, but also reputational too, as Joaquin in particular has dragged his own name through the mud to do this, most notably with an infamous non-appearance appearance on The David Letterman Show.
the only real question in regards of a review of the end product is perhaps was all of this worth it? yes and no, really. no because the film in itself, with no prior knowledge of what was going on, isn't frequently entertaining or interesting. even if you watch it slightly aware of the retirement of Joaquin Phoenix, it seems to labour a good deal more than it should do to make a basic point.
however, there's also a "yes" to it being worthwhile. the failings and the frustrations of the film means that, from the perspective of the makers, it is indeed a qualified success. the offered glimpses of the "real" Joaquin are clearly as poorly acted as he was capable of, and the only real parts of entertainment ("working" with Puff Daddy or whatever he calls himself now, the fight at a concert, the TV appearances) are clearly all well stage-managed, planned and precisely scripted.
the only parts of any "Reality" TV show or documentary which are in fact interesting and entertaining are those which have been specifically created for it. I'm Still Here is a bizarre, ironic post-modernist slice of proof of this.
to a large extent, the end product of this project, namely the film itself, is largely irrelevant. web search away for articles - Joaquin managed to keep in the news for over a year despite doing nothing much in particular bar grow a beard and on very few instances (two, i believe) mumble some obscenities into a microphone whilst some conventional hip hop backbeats played as backing to him. the 21st century phenomenon of "cult of celebrity" and this lowest common denominator obsession with "Reality" TV actually being something worthwhile was ruthlessly exposed as the shallow, hollow concepts they are.
that said, my overall impression is that the film isn't particularly worth the effort and investment put into it. at a superficial level the whole thing plays like one big home movie Joaquin and his mates have made to amuse themselves. you don't particularly ever get invited to share the joke, really. i mean, i believe i understand the point they were trying to make with this, but as previously mentioned, the two of them have spent two years making a point they could very easily have made in a twenty minute interview with any of the magazines and TV shows who have with passion reported any and all non-news about Joaquin whilst he made all of this.
whereas i have no doubt that Casey Affleck will continue on as normal after the fuss around I'm Still Here has died down (if there is any fuss), it will be interesting to see where Joaquin goes next. he has, sadly, shaved the elaborate beard off, which is a great shame as there were times in the film i thought he could play a very convincing Stanley Kubrick in a biopic. a lot of people suspect he might have burnt all bridges with his film career in doing this, but that's unlikely, considering how well liked, respected and indeed connected he is. after all, Sean Penn announced his retirement from acting back in the 80s - two Oscars and a shedload of quality performances since shows just how much attention the film industry pays to that sort of thing.
I'm Still Here is not the best or most enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes or so of your life. however, as it appears to have been a carefully planned disaster of a film, it doesn't warrant an outright dismissal from you when choosing a film to watch. for better or worse, it is unlikely that we shall ever see the likes of this on film again - if for no other reason, that alone makes it worthy of consideration.
be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!