“I’m Still Here,” Claims Scruffy Phoenix in this Curious Documentary

A film depicting the transition that Joaquin Phoenix the actor made into Joaquin Phoenix the bearded and overweight actor.  I am not sure what I would have made of this film, had I have seen it a couple of days beforehand, when it was still unsure whether or not Phoenix had truly sworn off acting, but watching it when I did, I have mixed thoughts.  On one hand it is kind of compelling to watch what is essentially a large-scale method acting performance taken to its extreme. On the other hand, trying to pick apart the film for where it is that sequences are staged and who is and who isn’t in on the joke tends to distract and take away from it.  Still, as a whole, the film functions as brutal look at an actor trying to reinvent himself, even while being embodied with traits that make him unlikable, but still portray him as vulnerable.

[About his music]
Joaquin Phoenix: I want it to be a hip-hop/bohemian rhapsody thing. I want it to be epic.
Mos Def: …Epic is good. Epic is…epic.

The film starts with Phoenix rambling to his brother-in-law, Casey Affleck (who also directed and edited the film) about how his life as an actor has been fraudulent and he needs to make a change.  The film then shows us the seemingly slow demise of Phoenix’s sanity, as he swears off acting and begins to start his new career as a rapper.  We are never actually given a clear reason why filming all of this was necessary, were it to have been true.

A major goal in this film is to have Phoenix record an album under P. Diddy’s rap label (credit goes to Diddy for managing to either hold his composure while being in on the joke or acting very professional by taking Phoenix seriously).  Other celebs pop up into the film as well, and these appearances fall back into me questioning whether or not they were in on this more than me questioning what they must have been thinking.

Joaquin Phoenix: Are we really filming just driving in a fucking car?

As the film progresses, we see Phoenix continue to unravel.  He gains weight, grows a ridiculous beard, and does drugs in just about every scene.  I am not actually sure there is a shot in this film where Phoenix is completely sober.  While all of these happenings occur, Phoenix manages to portray himself as narcissistic, quick to point the blame at anyone but himself and semi-delusional about the goals he has for himself.

It’s hard to actually state if I liked this film or even if I admired it.  The stars really seem negligible here, because as I’ve said, my feelings are mixed.  So really what it comes down to, in terms of recommending this film, are through means of curiosity.  If one is interested in viewing this film for the sake of seeing a man, a celebrity, unravel, then there is a lot to get from this.  I was certainly engaged throughout this film, and that came from what is essentially the performance that Phoenix gave.

I still question what I would have gotten from this, were still under the impression that it could be a real documentary (and sorry if that is a spoiler for real life), but this is the point of view I had to come from.  However, watching things like the infamous David Letterman appearance or seeing Phoenix perform on stage in front of thousands, and do so awkwardly and terribly give me a means to at least appreciate Phoenix’s performance as a very extreme version of experimental art.

As a documentary, the film is not particularly well made in terms of how it’s shot and the quality of the audio, etc.  But as a look at a man, with us essentially trying to find out what is inside of him that is making him function this way, there is a good enough sense of intrigue there.  Again, this is a recommendation that only comes from curiosity.

Edward James Olmos: It’s in the darkest moments when the cracks allow the inner light to come out.


Writer/Reviewer, Film Lover, Podcaster, Gamer, Comic Reader, Disc Golfer & a Lefty. There are too many films, TV, books, etc. for me to list as favorites, but I can assure that the amount film knowledge within my noggin is ridiculous, though I am always open to learning more. You can follow me on Twitter @AaronsPS4, see what else I am up to at TheCodeIsZeek.com & check out my podcast, Out Now with Aaron and Abe, on iTunes.

9 Responses to ““I’m Still Here,” Claims Scruffy Phoenix in this Curious Documentary”

  1. Brian White

    I’ll say this…I’m intrigued by this to say the least, but not enough to give him my cash…

    Is there anything over-the-top and ludicrous in here or is it just really sad to see him act the way he does?

  2. Aaron Neuwirth

    Yes there is, which includes one thing you would never want to see. I certainly didn’t.

  3. Brian White

    Uh oh…M. Night was involved in this too? 🙂 LOL

  4. Gerard Iribe

    This just in…the Pope is Catholic.

    How could people have even second guessed this?

  5. Brian White

    @Gerard…Get outta here! 🙂

  6. Sean Ferguson

    Although this was a hoax, I still don’t get why he would do this. I guess he believes if he burns it down he can rise up with a new career like a phoenix (no pun intended).

  7. Aaron Neuwirth

    Lets not kid ourselves, that pun was totally intended.

  8. Sean Ferguson

    It did work out rather well although it didn’t strike me until I finished typing it. Even if this is a hoax which I believe it is, there is still an element of self destructiveness that makes me wonder if Phoenix is ok. To go that far, seems to me like a cry of desperation and a request for help.

  9. Aaron Neuwirth

    Well at this point, we know that it was an elaborate hoax, and we understand that more and more people are coming out about it (Letterman is a key example). It will be interesting to see Phoenix’s upcoming interview on Letterman, as he has since cleaned up and stopped with the act.