Review: I'm Still Here DVD

I'm Still Here DVD boxSTUDIO: Magnolia | DIRECTOR: Casey Affleck | CAST: Joaquin Phoenix
RELEASE DATE: 11/23/10 | PRICE: DVD $26.98, Blu-ray $29.98
BONUSES: two commentaries, deleted scenes, alternate ending outtakes, more
SPECS: R | 108 min. | Documentary | 1.78:1 widescreen | Dolby Digital 5.1 | English and Spanish subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio  | Video  | Overall

Regarding the case of independent film I’m Still Here, well, the cat’s out of the bag so-to-speak on the so-called documentary about actor Joaquin Phoenix (Gladiator), as directed by his brother-in-law Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone).

Phoenix’s year in purgatory — in which he grew a beard, gained lots of weight, quit acting to become a rapper and made a legendarily weirdo appearance on Late Show With David Letterman — has been revealed as being a put-on, a big hoax that Phoenix and Affleck constructed as a kind of performance art about media and celebrity. Or maybe it was a gimmick to guarantee getting the movie produced.

Either way, I’m Still Here is a surprisingly well-crafted and compelling document of an artist losing his head. In it, the Oscar-nominated star of Walk the Line smokes lots of cigarettes; takes lots of drugs; cavorts with prostitutes; meets with P. Diddy (Get Him to the Greek), Ben Stiller (Tropic Thunder) and Edward James Olmos (TV’s Miami Vice); makes a fool of himself in live rap concerts; and shares some genuine disturbing moments with his assistants. In addition, Affleck bolsters the film by including the media coverage attributed to Phoenix’s fall from grace, his interview with an antagonistic Newsweek writer while promoting his film Two Lovers and some surprising before and after backstage footage of the Letterman ordeal.

Although the questions raised about Phoenix’s sanity have now been answered, his motives still remain fuzzy, even after his admission. And as the short-lived hubbub from the whole experience fades, questions about its affect on his career remain. What Phoenix, Affleck and Hollywood followers get out of the whole shebang is this documentary, for better or worse, of a life in fictional hell.

The generous special features on the DVD include two commentaries, one with Affleck by himself  and another in which he’s joined by Phoenix and their crew and co-conspirators, all of whom explain how the film was largely improvised and partly scripted (save for the reactions of addled talk show hosts and an unknowing public). Other bonuses include a bunch of deleted scenes with commentary by Affleck and a conversation with Extra‘s Jerry Penacoli, who fell prey to the boys’ scam while conducting a freaky on-air interview with Phoenix last year.

 

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About Irv

Irv Slifkin has been reviewing movies since before he got kicked off of his high school radio station for panning The Towering Inferno in 1974. He has written the books VideoHound’s Groovy Movies: Far-Out Films of the Psychedelic Era and Filmadelphia: A Celebration of a City’s Movies, and has contributed film reportage and reviews to such outlets as Entertainment Weekly, The Hollywood Reporter, Video Business magazine and National Public Radio.