In 2008 while rehearsing for a charity event, actor Joaquin Phoenix, with Casey Affleck’s camera watching, tells people he’s quitting to pursue a career in rap music. Over the next year, we watch the actor write, rehearse, and perform to an audience. He importunes Sean Combs in hopes he’ll produce the record. We see the actor in his home: he parties, smokes, bawls out his two-man entourage, talks philosophy with Affleck, and comments on celebrity.
User Reviews: This has to be one of the most weird and surreal movies that I’ve ever seen. Watching Joaquin Phoenix bouncing around like a gibbering idiot and rapping in front of Edward James Olmos (rap name: EJO), while a nonsensical voice-over of Olmos rambles about raindrops and mountains and inner light…it’s just insane. And the entire mockumentary is like that, to varying degrees.
Joaquin plays a deranged, drug-using, prostitute-frequenting, delusional, destructive, bizzaro-version of himself, and I just can’t look away. Every time he steps up onto a stage to rap, it’s a hilarious train wreck. Even though you can’t help but feel painfully embarrassed for the character. The way he berates his assistants, tries to get a friend in recovery to take drugs, constantly surrenders to his own paranoia and delusions, and takes narcissism and selfishness to the furthest excesses, it’s all just unbelievably compelling. It’s like watching the worst person in the world and wondering what insanity they’re going to race towards next.
I thought that the performance by Phoenix was great. This is my absolute favorite movie by him, and my favorite "character" that he’s played. It’s not by accident that so many people thought this movie was a genuine documentary about Phoenix’s spiraling life. He genuinely makes the character seem crazy enough to believe that his music is actually good and that the absurd things that he’s saying have meaning. It feels real, even when you know it’s not. Every uncomfortable, embarrassed and incredulous reaction of his friends and the people he meets just drew me deeper into the world of this bizarre man.
I was beyond impressed by what Phoenix and Casey Affleck did with this. When I first heard about it, it sounded like a vanity project that would be an amusing oddity, at best. What I got instead was one of the best movies I’ve seen this year. It is NOT for everyone. But how can I not rate a movie highly that made me laugh so much, while also making me feel sadness, disgust, pity, incredulity, anger, hope, embarrassment, and ten other things?
This experiment was a smashing success, in my opinion, and something truly unique that I’ll be thinking about for a long time. I’m Still Here is audacious, ridiculous, and certainly divisive. I can honestly see why some people would hate this movie, and the entire idea behind it. But, long before that perfect ending left my screen, I knew which side of that divide I would fall on.