I’m Still Here

18 Aug

By josh

Hey, remember a couple years ago when Joaquin Phoenix quit acting to focus on his rap career?! You probably more remember him quitting acting to focus on his “going crazy” career, which for awhile now has been going quite well. He grew a beard, let his appearance go, and started a series of erratic behaviors that led to many quirky reports rolling in from the folks over at TMZ. From the beginning, however, we learned that whole thing was oddly timed to coincide with Phoenix’s “last movie ever,” Two Lovers, which he infamously promoted on David Letterman, coming across as a complete weirdo. We also learned that the transition from two-time Academy Award nominee to rap superstar was going to be filmed, and not by just any documentary film director, but good friend and fellow Academy Award nominee Casey Affleck. “Hoax” was the word that was bandied around from the get-go, with speculation of a “Borat-style” fakeumentary, with just a touch of Punk’d on the side, with Casey and Joaquin being the only ones in on the joke. However, they continued to adamantly insist the whole thing was real, and after awhile, with the huge torpedo-sized hole in Phoenix’s career as a testament, it was hard to believe anyone would keep up this kind of ruse for a cheap inside joke.

Well, now after two years of the experiment, we’re finally getting our first look at Affleck’s footage in the form of the official first trailer for I’m Still Here, which, if we’re to believe that everything is real, is a document of a man who throws everything away to chase his music dreams, and the opposition and personal turmoil that comes with it. Here’s the minute-long first look:

Well, where to begin? The clip opens up with a bearded Phoenix sitting at a table getting philosophical advice from someone(?), who is describing Phoenix as a “drop of water.” As the clip continues, we see shots of Joaquin looking like a troubled Zach Galifianakis, while the voice over continues to spout off wisdom, as it covers ground, which I’ll paraphrase by saying that Phoenix is a drop of water that has it all, but to experience God or some sort of religious experience, he needs to “change” and evaporate to complete the life cycle. Whoah, pretty deep there, guy! Throughout this “voice of God” we see Phoenix hanging out with celebrities, getting into fights, performing live and in the studio, breaking down, getting into more fights, experiencing nature, experiencing God, and one gratuitous gut shot that just screams “hey, look how far I’ve fallen!”

So what’s it all about? It looks like a documentary of some sort of Zen-like quest to find meaning using music as a guide, but the traveler on that quest is a critically acclaimed actor, and the music is rapping, and not very good rapping, from what we hear. How could this possibly be real? Both Phoenix and Casey Affleck have pretty impressive paper trails as of late, with Phoenix being hailed as the next great thing, and Affleck riding off two great back to back performances in The Assassination of Jesse James and the surprisingly good Gone Baby Gone, directed by his constantly-misleading big brother Ben. These two know what they’re doing, and embarking on an ambitious experiment that blurs the line between real life and fiction that improbably skewers Hollywood conventions, seems like a great pet-project for two up-and-comers who are already bored with the fakeness of Tinsel Town. The story arc is waaaaaay to contrived to be factual, with footage of the disillusioned superstar drastically altering his handsome good looks, taking on a rap career that is a complete departure from what he’s known for, breaking down, fighting it out with whomever he can get his hands on, before finally hitting rock bottom and finding God in the process. I’ve read that story a thousand times already, so whether this is truly life imitating art, or the other way around, I find it hard to swallow, given the pedigrees of the people involved.

So, will it suck?

Yes. I could easily say no at the same time, though. The trailer comes off as being really interesting, and the story leading up to this whole thing makes me want to see the final project, but with all the cons and put-ons that went into the making, was it really worth the effort that went into it? And let’s be honest, a couple of young punks trying to pull the wool over our eyes comes off as a little pretentious, don’t you think? At the end of the day, though, can we really be sure that the trailer we’re seeing is really the movie we’re going to get? With that ridiculously bad rap performance out in Vegas, I feel we may be getting more Dewey Cox than Johnny Cash. I’m tempted to put my money on seeing the boys twist us once again and releasing a comedy rather than a drama, so until the projectors start rolling in the theatres, I’m going to hold off judgment completely.

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