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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Joaquin Phoenix's Act in 'I'm Still Here'

Joaquin Phoenix's Act in 'I'm Still Here' is Fake, Says Director.

Joaquin Phoenix could be the most narcissistic, sniveling, drugged-up mess of a man ever to appear on a screen. Or he could be the greatest actor of all time. The answer, it appears, is the latter.

In a New York Times interview, "I'm Still Here" director Casey Affleck admitted that Phoenix's performance, including the infamous appearance on David Letterman's "Late Show" where the star mumbled his way through the disastrous late-night segment, is fake.

"It's a terrific performance, it's the performance of his career," Affleck told the Times. "I never intended to trick anybody. The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind."

Affleck's "I'm Still Here" purports to follow Phoenix's 2008 departure from Hollywood and attempt to launch a rap career. It follows Phoenix through blow-up after blow-up, joint after joint, beer after beer.

He screams, he smokes, he snorts. Over the course of a months-long quest for legitimacy that takes him all over the country and eventually to Panama, Phoenix insists that he's better than everyone else, that he deserves A-list treatment, that he's too cool for Hollywood, that he's got what it takes to make it as an emcee, and that no, this whole quitting-acting-taking-up-rapping thing is not a hoax.

Like a petulant child, he begs for attention. He gets it from salaried sycophants and assistants, and Affleck, who stays behind the cameras for almost all of the movie, is seemingly unperturbed.

Affleck's aloofness calls into question the nature of the film -- it's billed as a documentary but, at times, a viewer thought Phoenix seems to be playing to the camera instead of dissolving before it, displaying a level of idiocy that seems a stretch even for an Oscar-nominated actor (first for "Gladiator," then for "Walk the Line"). He never figures out how to address the rap mogul he stalks, Sean "Diddy" Combs. (Is it "Diddy?" Is it "Mr. Combs?" He can't be bothered to get it right.) Oh, he needs money to make an album? He didn't know that. He was too busy manically making snow angels.

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