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I'm Still Here

I'm Still Here

Review by Cassam Looch

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

IT’S A shame that by the time you read this, and probably by the time you see the film, you’ll know the ‘truth’ behind the film. For some reason, Casey Affleck has now confirmed that the movie is indeed a hoax and he should know given that he is the director of the project.

Then again, the whole film has been built upon such a tower of lies that this final revelation could just be part of the hype.

Either way, I’m Still Here manages to be an entertaining look at the enigma that is Joaquin Phoenix, an actor who already had a reputation for being ‘difficult’ and ‘intense’.

The film begins in the middle of the media blitz surrounding the release of Walk The Line, a film that garnered the actor an Oscar nomination and a lot of critical praise.

Phoenix, however, appears uncomfortable with the spotlight so firmly on him, and promptly announces that he is quitting the profession to launch a music career. What’s more, it will be a rap album and the whole transition will be filmed by his brother-in-law and fellow thespian, Casey Affleck.

Joining him on the journey are his ever-present assistant Anton (formerly of the band Spacehog) and various hangers on. As the story quickly descends into farce – is it because of the constant substance abuse or is that a result of the negativity towards the whole project? – Phoenix ends up going to some extreme lengths for his art.

The film works best in the middle section, where everyone is aware of the project and they begin to question its legitimacy. Both the people close to the actor and the wider media turn on him, and it becomes uncomfortable for all the right reasons.

It’s the questions we were asking ourselves and as a journalist who has attended many press conferences and round-table sessions, the one we see for Two Lovers (Phoenix’s last film, or so he said at the time) is painfully accurate.

Again, truth or not is largely irrelevant… we’ve attended worse so this could easily happen.

The Letterman interview also features heavily and it now turns out that this could well be one of the greatest acting performances from the Talk show host, who appears to get genuinely annoyed with the unresponsive actor.

Additionally, the interactions with other actors, including some notable A-list talent, are fantastic. The highlight being an awkward meeting with Ben Stiller in which he tries to convince Phoenix to sign on for his latest film (one which has subsequently been released), but he refuses to play ball.

The final act becomes too self-aware (even for this film) as the journey finds an end which should have been left out. Affleck and Phoenix, however, still have great chemistry together, with one instigating the other and vice-versa, and P Diddy joining in with a couple of cracking one-liners.

The humour is very much like the stilted style most recently seen in The Office with looks to the camera leading to difficult silences and cringing amongst the audience.

The Borat and Bruno comparisons only come into play in some places, but it’s still very entertaining throughout.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 108mins
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: January 10, 2011