Posted by Nick Ondras on September 16, 2010 at 8:22 pm
Regarding the “tell-all” documentary (that word ought to be book-ended by quotation marks, too) I’m Still Here we’re now sort of aware what was going through Casey Affleck’s head when deciding to immediately roll camera on his brother-in-law Phoenix’s soon-to-be-year-long journey: following up increasing suspicion only a week after the film dropped in theaters, Affleck has revealed to the New York Times the regulation was a complete stitch.
In the interview Affleck spoke of Phoenix in the movie as giving a “terrific performance, it’s the performance of his career.” He also says his doc I’m Still Here was stylized similar to that of “gonzo filmmaking” a la Hunter S. Thompson. The homemade sequences, of Phoenix and family cavorting midst a lake in Panama – were shot in Hawaii with paid actors, Affleck claiming they were shot over a VHS recording of the film Paris, Texas. Every lick of the story, Phoenix’s outburst, the media craze – all a bunch of crap.
I wouldn’t say I’m quite as dumbfounded at this logic being staged as I am of Affleck’s admittance to such a rumored claim; a clean interview with the New York Times while Phoenix’s rapid decline began with an announcement on variety show Extra. However David Letterman, whose talk show Phoenix’s scruffy-bearded persona was first noticed on, was not hip to the tell, according to Affleck. “I never intended to trick anybody,” he says. “The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind.” Even Phoenix’s agent Patrick Whitesell took part in the film, full knowing. When bringing up the notion of running this idea of a prize-winning actor gone mad to Whitesell: “…you would think he would have me killed immediately…”
Could Affleck have taken up admittance to this fact due to the poor reviews I’m Still Here received, and the specific reasons why some were so very against the documentary? As a whole the 77 reviews inputted on Rotten Tomatoes came to a 57% average, one critic even calling everyone behind the movie “losers”. It seems I’m Still Here was the tipping point, Affleck himself saying there were parts in the film hinting at the loose strings of the Joaquin Phoenix debacle. However, “There was no wink,” he also said.
My question is what the point was in anyone going along with this idea; could Borat or This is Spinal Tap have served as that vital of influences? Max von Sydow didn’t see himself in The Exorcist and think “Hey, I’m pretty good at this, maybe I should become a priest.” This hoax, almost immediately following the Letterman appearance and Extra inquiry, didn’t seem to be quite as comedic to the rest of the nation as it did to the people, again, behind the cameras. I do hear Phoenix is quite good in the film, and maybe a staged movie about a drug-snorting rapper-wannabe involving him would have been a good idea. I’m Still Here wasn’t terribly received mind you, but the fact of its existence seemed unnecessary and doomed from the start to those not too interested in what really happened to the man and the spiraling downfall behind it. A potentially brilliant look into a Hollywood mind that somewhere became too committed and its limited theatrical release last week seemed to serve as a stopping point for Phoenix’s run, and for the “joke” to come to a close.
An idea so strange it’s oddly comforting is the case of Joaquin Phoenix, a man who’ll undoubtedly hit back sooner rather than later (there’s talk already of his having snagged a role in the next film by Andrew Dominik, the director of The Assassination of Jesse James.) I do think it was a rather bad idea for the story to become something non-fiction, and for its admittance, but hell, it was a wild try, and for that I can respect these two aforementioned gentlemen and whoever else still in the dark had hopped on board.
But does Affleck’s interview really clear up this hoax, or is it a step further into the mystery the entire idea was shrouded in? Nonetheless, regarding the film the interview was pretty much based upon the purpose of I’m Still Here stays open. This time for less a two-way street than a wide interpretation.