You said once you were sad, but I don't believe you,
You're too simple in the head for pain to please you,
There are days when you feel good,
and days when you feel nothing at all. - Sarah Jaffe
I'm Still Here is the documentary of Joaquin Phoenix retiring from acting and starting a hip-hop career. The film allegedly documents the travails that dogged Phoenix from the moment he gave up his promising gig for a field he clearly knew nothing about. P. Diddy is involved, Casey Affleck directed the film, and Joaquin Phoenix is the star of the show. The potential was there for something interesting, but the contempt for humanity shown throughout the film makes it impossible to connect with. The film is so clearly a contrived mockumentary that it makes Bruno feel authentic; to see Phoenix squander his amazing potential and waste his time with this sophomoric gigglefest is a real shame.
We're forced to choose between two realities in I'm Still Here, both of which are extremely ugly and largely pointless.
Either 1) Joaquin Phoenix is a self-absorbed and deluded idiot (probably not)
2) He's hamming it up for the camera an an attempt to prove something (true, but poorly executed).
This is our choice because I'm Still Here is clearly a film that detests its audience, abhors a culture that glorifies celebrity, and hates the general public that watches Entertainment Tonight and reads "The Hollywood Reporter" while making YouTube videos about what an idiot Joaquin Phoenix is. It's a fair point, and if it had been examined as well as it was in something like Teenage Paparazzo, then Phoenix might have had a leg to stand on. As it stands Joaquin is simply adding to the ugliness, encouraging the fools, and wasting everyone's time.
A case in point would be the inclusion of Diddy in the film. Phoenix seeks a meeting with the hip-hop mogul to see if he'll produce his album. There are probably 100 people in the world who have access to P. Diddy Combs to talk about their rap careers. Joaquin Phoenix is one of them, only he chooses to use his time smoking out prior to their meeting, which causes him to be 30 minutes late. This wouldn't be a dealbreaker -- tortured artists are all the rage -- but his "rap" is clearly a disaster, garbled and mumbled lines sputtered through the unkempt follicle nightmare that is his beard. At one point he rhymes "sanity" with "games" and during another ditty he just repeats "It's complicated!" over and over as if his brain had been instantaneously replaced with pudding. We don't see him working on his craft, we don't see him in the clubs trying to get better, we don't see him reaching out to rappers or starting a writing notebook. What we do see is his him leveraging his celebrity to cause a spectacle. What we do see is him not taking it seriously. What we do see is him not caring, which would be fine, if only he didn't ask us to instead.
During this monstrosity we get to:
See Joaquin berate his personal assistants
See Joaquin take copious amounts of time off from personal grooming
See Joaquin do a line of cocaine off a prostitute's breast
See Joaquin fly in private jets
See Joaquin flail about with the press who are rightly convinced the whole thing is a hoax
See Joaquin get pooped upon
See Joaquin scream at a laughing audience, "I have a million dollars in the bank!"
If this is your idea of a good time, by all means, have at it. And to be fair I laughed half a dozen times during the film, mostly during the Edward James Olmos portion of the film (The group later nicknames him "EJO") where the insanity reaches a fevered pitch. But the real joke is on anyone who takes this material seriously, anyone who doesn't think Phoenix is acting like he's not acting, anyone who legitimately thinks this film documents a world someone inhabits.