Not to be confused with I’m Not There, I’m Still Here is a documentary style movie made by Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck that follows the actor in 2009 when he announces his retirement from acting, and begins a transition into “hip hop style music.”
I say “documentary style” because even though they have come out and said the whole thing was staged, and that it was a mockumentary, I’m not 100% convinced. I mean I’m like 90% of the way there, but I also just feel like they could have done it and when they saw how it tanked him and he was losing money, that was just a way to spin it to remain in control. I haven’t done much research, I’m sure with a few google searches I could be completely convinced but for now I will hold on to the few nagging doubts I have.
The only thing I can be completely sure of is what a smug piece of shit David Letterman is. Wow, is he awful. There’s a point in the movie (and pivotal point in the real life roll out of this hoax if we’re calling it that) where Joaquin goes on Letterman to promote his movie The Two Lovers (did anyone see that?) and it’s one of the first major public appearances where he looks like he looks and is withdrawn and a little testy. David Letterman doesn’t know how to interview people on a good day, so when this happens he gives a lot of snarky asides to “the audience” which is just him looking at the camera every few seconds with a simpering smile. After he tries to ask a few questions about the movie (his “questions” are him mentioning the women in the movie and repeating that they are “lovely” and/or “beautiful” then waiting) that don’t land, he just insults Joaquin’s appearance and personhood. It’s so infuriating to watch an old puppet of a man give a “this guy” look to the camera a million times, for refusing to laugh at things that aren’t funny and share an inane anecdote about something that happened on set just so they can both go “isn’t that zainy??” then plug the movie two more times. Maybe the only reason I don’t want the movie to be a joke is just so for fucking ONCE someone can acknowledge how stupid and fake late night TV is in general, and how incompetent and asinine David Letterman is specifically. But I digress.
I watched the first hour of this movie (it’s very long) at three in the morning because I couldn’t sleep because of existential dread, which I don’t recommend. Then I picked it back up at the reasonable hour of 2:00pm because I was getting sick and didn’t want to leave the house (which I totally recommend!). Sometime during this second viewing I asked my boyfriend if he had seen it and he mentioned that it was a hoax. Which I didn’t know at all, so I had the interesting experience of both pre and post viewings with this knowledge. Before I knew that, I hated it and it was sad and depressing. After knowing that (mostly) I think Joaquin Phoenix is one of the best actors of all time and it became way more interesting to me. But isn’t that interesting, why did I have to know the art wasn’t sincere for me to like it? I feel like that happens a lot lately and I don’t know how I feel about it. Where something is bad but then if you’re in on the joke of it being bad on purpose, somehow it becomes good? Why? Who knows.
The scenes with P.Diddy are really funny either way, (Joaquin wants P.Diddy to produce his album and he has this whole saga of trying to contact him, then waiting, then flying to cities to wait, then meeting with him, then bringing him a CD) P.Diddy is in the relatable position of knowing something’s bad but not being able to outright say that, and it’s fun to watch him maneuver those situations.
The knowledge that the scenes are staged makes sense that they could have Joaquin doing coke and hiring prostitutes in the film, and made the scene where he’s throwing up into a toilet less gross (I hope). There’s also a scene where Ben Stiller comes to pitch him a movie and that was great because I love Ben Stiller.
In general, the ruminations on “celebrity” and “reality TV” they’re pushing are interesting and they probed the conversation a lot further than had been done before, I guess my biggest question with art is always Why, and the answer here just seems to be “my friend and I wanted to play a joke on the world” which is cool I suppose.
This whole movie I just kept imagining Joaquin in Gladiator, like the way he looked and talked in that, wearing armor, doing the same stuff he was doing in this movie- like rapping or throwing up or chasing a bird with a sheet, and that was personally entertaining.
Joaquin Phoenix was a particularly interesting person to do this because I think so many people really like him and they don’t know why- people seem to route for his success just cause. Unlike with some actors where you think they do a good job but they seem like dicks or you secretly want them to fail (Tom Cruise, Chris Evans), I think people are sweet on him because of his cleft palate scar, people don’t know what he’s been through and they are routing for him. So it was interesting to see how many people continued to support him despite all the shit he was putting out, like people kept booking him to do club appearances even though they would hear about how bad the other ones were, and even though P.Diddy thought his music was bad he kept meeting with him and encouraging him. I think if someone less likable and talented had tried to do this same prank (like Ben Affleck for example) it would have been a much shorter movie and things would have turned on him way faster.
This was a movie I really wanted to see and I’m a little disappointed in what it was, but happy I finally saw it.
One and a half cleft palate scars, would not masturbate again.