I'm Still Here (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner20/09/2010

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 108 mins

Impressively directed and sharply written, this is a blackly funny mockumentary that works on several different levels, though it's not exactly an easy watch.

What's it all about?
Directed by Casey Affleck, I'm Still Here purports to be a documentary that charts an increasingly disastrous year in the life of Affleck's brother-in-law, Joaquin Phoenix, after he announces his intentions to quit acting and become a hip-hop artist.

Unfortunately, things don't quite go to plan – the media learn about the documentary and immediately label it a hoax (a nice bit of meta-fiction) so no one takes his hip-hop aspirations seriously: he has a series of excruciating meetings with producer Sean 'P Diddy' Combs; he grows an enormous beard and spends all his time drinking and doing drugs; he becomes a laughing stock after his famously spaced-out appearance on the David Letterman show; and his long-suffering British assistant Anton (Antony Langdon) finally cracks and exacts a rather disgusting revenge.

The Good
There's been a huge amount of speculation in the press about whether or not I'm Still Here is a hoax, but anyone who seriously believes it's all real hasn't been paying close enough attention, as a cursory glance at the closing credits will reveal.

What's really clever about the film is that it doesn't actually matter whether it's a hoax or not, as it works on several different levels: as an Andy Kaufman-style situationist prank (and one that Affleck and Phoenix kept up for over a year); as a satire on the rampant egomania and hedonistic excesses of Hollywood actors; as an extremely black, Larry David-style Comedy Of Embarrassment; and, if you take it at face value, a rather upsetting study of an actor undergoing a full-on mental breakdown.

The Great
Phoenix is astonishing throughout, going above and beyond the call of duty, from the unsightly weight gain to the Grizzly Adams beard; we can only hope the 'revenge' scene is faked. There's also terrific support from Sean Combs (the bit where he listens to all Phoenix's awful hip-hop tracks is very funny) and particularly Edward James Olmos, who shows up to offer Phoenix some hilariously po-faced spiritual advice.

In addition, the dialogue is often very funny in that mockumentary style, such as Phoenix announcing to a commendably straight-faced Mos Def that he's working on “a hip-hop Bohemian Rhapsody”.

Worth seeing?
I’m Still Here is a well made, cleverly written and darkly funny documentary with a fearless performance from Joaquin Phoenix, though it's fair to say it won't work for everyone.

Film Trailer

I'm Still Here (15)
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Content updated: 22/04/2019 12:04

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