A Long and Boring (and Fake!) Meltdown
By now, everyone knows that Casey Affleck’s film about his train wreck of a brother-in-law, Joaquin Phoenix, is not a documentary. Nor is the film a hoax, exactly. But in making the movie, which we are supposed to view as performance art or a commentary on modern celebrity or something, Phoenix and Affleck had to deceive a lot of unsuspecting people. Millions, if you count David Letterman’s viewing audience and readers of entertainment blogs.
It’s hard to say if I’m Still Here would have been more interesting if we thought it were all true: Joaquin Phoenix’s profound disillusionment with acting and his ensuing meltdown, which entails abusing his assistants, stalking Sean Combs in three different cities over the course of several months, rapping badly and becoming increasingly more paranoid. Also chubby.
If Phoenix could have dialed it back just a little, maybe we could care about it, even the frat-house bubble he allegedly inhabits, with its unlimited supply of weed and cocaine-encrusted prostitutes.
It’s just that he’s such asshole, constantly whining and yelling at people. And maybe that is the point, a middle finger raised to a culture that worships celebrities even when they behave in ways that we would never tolerate from non-famous friends and non-famous bosses. Not unless we are masochists.
I’m Still Here is also a cautionary tale for people who, bored with their lives, dream of becoming famous. Actors, regardless of how many homes, employees, A-list friends, drugs and beautiful women they have, spend a lot of time waiting around, arguing, obsessing over minutiae and regretting their decisions. Just like the little people.