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I'm Still Here

I'm Still Here

In Theatres: 
Sep 10, 2010
Running Time: 
108 minutes

Drugs, feces, hookers and plenty of facial hair, I'm Still Here falls short of carrying itself as a dark, inspiring look at one man's dreams and how he will probably never achieve them.

Acting. I'm one of those actors who likes to stay in character between takes. I drive other actors crazy but, to me, the most important thing when I'm making a film is that the character takes precedence. I become obsessed with whoever I'm playing. I want to explore the character as completely as I can. The moment an actor becomes satisfied with themselves, their work suffers. I think that we should always challenge ourselves in work.

This is a quote from Joaquin Phoenix. The timeline from which he said this is unknown, but conclusive to the fact that he once meant it. Joaquin Phoenix was last heard of as retiring his acting career to pursue a much "different" career. A life of luxury, fame and endless expression: The career of hip-hop. Brother-In-Law Casey Affleck helped Joaquin put the "remarkable" transition to film buy agreeing to direct the filming of said actions. That film is I'm Still Here.

Throughout the film, Joaquin never introduces himself as anyone but a man who wants to be free to express himself. We never get to know the "real" character behind the characters. And the crazy thing, is that this is the main complaint Joaquin has throughout the picture: That no one takes him seriously and wants the world to accept him for who he is. Here's the real question: Who is Joaquin Phoenix?

Based off of the majority of I'm Still Here's runtime, the answer can be found in the cocaine-snorting, call-girl loving, narcissistic ways of Mr. Phoenix. He spends half of the film reassuring friends (and what-seems-to-be himself) that his hip-hop career is not a joke. It's his career and his passion.  He even contacts Sean "P. Diddy" Combs and asks him for help on his new album.  With a notepad of songs, a handful of live performances on schedule and the help of P. Diddy on his album, Joaquin is underway to prove who he really is. Or who he really isn't. 

Director Casey Affleck has gone on record saying that I'm Still Here is definitely not a hoax, but that some scenes were scripted. Specifically, Affleck points out that the role of Sean Combs was completely planned out, which once you watch the film, makes a lot more sense as to why they would hire him as a specific character. The fact that scripted scenes were planted in a documentary about a man's journey almost makes the film completely stale and utterly pointless. If Combs' part was completely scripted, who's to say the movie isn't completely engineered? 

Outside of the questionable seriousness of the film, I'm Still Here has many scenes that just don't belong. Scenes of snorting cocaine off of a call-girl's breast. Scenes of drug use. Scenes of male frontal nudity. And yes, even scenes of defecation on another person. At times, the film seems like they used the concept of being filmed to have fun and party. While it works and keeps some humor alive in these scenes, they stand out in making the film feel organic. 

The ultimate point of a film is audience reaction. An emotional connection between the character and their journey. And throughout all the questionable validity and cringe-worthy scenes, there lies Joaquin Phoenix. Is it the real Joaquin Phoenix? Probably not. But whether he is acting or not, the audience feels for this anti-hero and his never-ending quest for musical stardom. Failure after failure, he continues to fight for the chance to entertain audiences with his lyrics. And it's inspiring in a sense. Not to where a viewer will reach for their dreams, but inspiring that a man can push through so many failures just to reach what no one thinks is possible. Could it be real? Maybe. Does it work? Pretty much. 

Now take another look at the quote above and ask yourself: Could Affleck and Phoenix both possibly filmed a fake documentary to pull a prank on all of us? More importantly, would anyone care? As a film, it works quite well as a rise & fall story of one man. But unfortunately, with all the previous controversy surrounding Phoenix and his career, the film is weighed down and becomes increasingly boring.

Drugs, feces, hookers and plenty of facial hair, I'm Still Here falls short of carrying itself as a dark, inspiring look at one man's dreams and how he will probably never achieve them. 

Ryan Sterritt
Review by Ryan Sterritt
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