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September 10, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Critics are suggesting that, judging from Casey Affleck’s documentary about him, Joaquin Phoenix may still be here but he’s not all there. In his review of I’m Still Here, Joe Neumaier writes in the New York Daily News: “The whole thing is such a tedious, foul-mouthed mess that it isn’t even worth discussing as a riff on the Bob Dylan doc Don’t Look Back or a meditation on slovenly semi-madness. … The whole thing is pointless and disgusting.” Still, a few critics remain convinced that it’s all a spoof or as Manohla Dargis calls it in the New York Times, “a deadpan satire.” The film, she writes, “does take on, at times forcefully and effectively, the pathological fallout of the Entertainment Industrial Complex. Much of the movie involves Mr. Phoenix’s having, or more likely pantomiming, a meltdown, for which he puts on a really good show. (He snorts white powder, hires a hooker, abuses his assistants.) But the programmatic nature of his antics strongly suggests that he is self-consciously playing a role in a narrative, one that isn’t simply about him.” Claudia Puig in USA Today can’t quite figure out what it’s about. “Let’s hope that I’m Still Here … is a hoax or some brand of cinematic performance art. Otherwise, it’s an annoying, exploitative and disturbingly voyeuristic excuse for a film. And whether truth or folly, it’s not particularly well made. Even in the midst of Phoenix’s most oddball and obsessive torment, it’s boring.” Christy Lemire of the Associate Press can’t make up her mind either about whether the film is a put-on or the real thing. But it really doesn’t make much difference, she concludes. “If we’re truly witnessing the unraveling of a talented man in his prime, it’s just sad. If it’s all performance art, though, it’s just pointless.” “I’m not sure how to position this for you, the moviegoer who just wants to know if the movie’s any good,” writes Ty Burr in the Boston Globe. “Parts of it are close to genius; most of it is actively torturous to watch.” And Peter Hartlaub of the San Francisco Chronicle predicts that eventually Phoenix will “provide some perspective when he explains this pretentious mess.” But Steven Rea in the Philadelphia Inquirer remarks that as “a meditation on a life lived in the public eye, I’m Still Here is strange, riveting, and occasionally appalling stuff, any way you look at it.” And Michael O’Sullivan appears to interrupt his train of thought in his review in the Washington Post by asking, “Have we all been punked? Well, maybe. If the whole movie is an act, it’s an Oscar-worthy one.”

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