Lets gets down to it. The film just premiered at The Venice Film Festival and much like the people there, the real reason you’re going to watch I’m Still Here is to try and figure it out for yourselves, not because I tell you the score or the cinematography is so good. The question we’ve been asking ourselves since we heard the rumor that Joaquin Phoenix was quitting acting and then humiliated himself on Letterman is, is this real or not? Well, that all depends on what you believe is “real”.
I’m Still Here, takes many of the moments that have been displayed in pop culture of Phoenix’s “life-style choice” for the past year or so and shows us how they came to be and the effects they caused on our dear specimen, Joaquin. Though some of the events that we saw take place (ie. the Letterman interview) were most likely staged, it appears that the story behind the lie is in fact genuine.
The film begins with Phoenix talking about how he, even in his most truthful roles, is always lying and for once he’s going to tell the truth. In a way this possibly makes the film a version of live theater with him actually finding the truth in an obscure predicament that he and Casey Affleck put him in.
It is my humble opinion (and please feel free to argue because this film is meant for that) that what we’re seeing is Phoenix in fact being honest, BUT he is doing so under imagining circumstance, which is then being manipulated into a different perspective by Affleck to form a movie. If this is true, that story might make a better film instead of trying to make it “real” just letting it be real. But that’s just a guess, let’s continue,
Phoenix is a professional actor and a damned good and successful one at that, one could presume (though one could never really know) that embarrassing himself on live TV, getting into fights, being humiliated over and over again, all while staying in character in front of the public eye and even being mocked by fellow colleagues (ie Ben Stiller at the Oscars pretending to be Phoenix), isn’t an easy experience to go through.
So, once again. Is it a hoax? He has put everything on the line for a number of years for this film or rather this experience. For an actor to take that kind of a chance on their career is no small step and it is in fact very real. So let’s think about the “real-ness” of it all….
- Is going on live TV and humiliating yourself hard? Yes.
- Is singing a hip-hop in front of a massive audience and having the audience hate you hard… yes (especially if you’re not really trying to be a hip hop artist and you know you suck).
- Is trying something new (hip-hop) as an artist even if it is somewhat of a joke, spending time, money and energy on it and then being told you have no talent for it hard? Yes. No one likes to fail even if it’s something they didn’t know they were good at.
- Is realizing that by taking this leap, whether it be honest, experimental, or a mixture of the two and then finding out that you might not have anymore money or a job to go back to hard? Absolutely.
For all these reasons, I believe that what we saw of Joaquin — though staged — was truthful.
You could easily take all of his rants and instead of relating them to the films thesis which is “him quitting acting and taking on hip-hop” and attribute his break-downs and development on screen to “he’s made a choice to make put himself in an extraordinary circumstance and is having trouble living with it” — Instead of acting on a set, there’s no one to yell “cut!” and at the end of the day he was stuck (at least within the public eye) being forced to live his circumstance. It’s like Borat but he’s not in character, he’s putting his name on the line.
In the beginning of the film he said he wanted truth, and I think he may have found it, even if it was through a lie. On some level you could call it fake, but I would consider it more of an experiment on the human response to the life of a star falling.
To add to the “hoax” theory, the film was “written” by Affleck and Phoenix, and frankly I believe that Joaquin is a good enough actor to fool the world. To me the situation is very obviously not true, but what resulted from it was real, or at least a real experience that is in fact interesting to watch.
My suggestion: Watch this as a interesting FILM shot in a documentary style that is based off of a true experience and not necessarily true events– and if you can understand that, then this movie it perfect for you!
I’m Still Here debuts in theaters on September 10th
And as a big PS to all of this… Joaquin Phoenix was at the Venice Film Festival and he looked great, no beard, the tummy was gone — so take it as you will.