I’m Still Here
Karen – September 17th/18th 2010
Brilliant Deception or Beautiful Folly?
From March 2009, after that famous Liv club fight the life of the Joaquin obsessor (me) had become a constant round of theories blurring horribly into the next day and the next. While waiting the return of this modern day Svengali who had gotten under my skin literally, I had discussed, over and over the previous 5 months in the life of Joaquin Phoenix with my equal obsessor Poppie. The point of no return had come though and although I never lost faith that he’d be back and I suppose the ‘rest’ from the dramas was at first, a relief but by the end of 2009, it was unbearable. Poppie predicted 2010 would be our year and she was not wrong. One mind blowingly beautiful day in January 2010 the man himself returned. 9 months later, this is what we have for explanation, I’m Still Here….
The film opens with what seemed to be a home movie of a young Joaquin in Panama….however that had just the day before been outed as fake. So much hype, so many reviews…..There wasn’t much left but to watch the film and see for myself. I have been in this similar position before when watching a new Joaquin film, heart pounding and nerves on edge…but today surpassed all of them in a moment. The moment when Magnolia Pictures flashed up and I realised that this was it, this was my reward, my prize and it was all here for me. Having said all of the above, it would be hard for anyone to expect anything other than a totally biased, praised drenched and totally unbalanced review. I hope it isn’t because I can seperate the bad from the good, the Reservation Road from the Gladiator.
I view this film from 2 perspectives. The casual filmgoer, the ‘I remember that Phoenix guy from Walk The Line’ punter and the Joaquin obsessed fan. Clearly I’m the latter so for me the film was like coming home. It was a series of events that to be honest are pretty dire and horribly played out at times but serve to provide the Joaquin obsessor with answers. I’m not a casual but on both viewing’s so far, I have attended with a ‘casual’ and what, if anything, it offers the former group, is unclear at the start and certainly not any clearer at the end. What is clear is that Joaquin Phoenix the character is unpleasant, uncouth and extremely unhappy. Why one would create such a character is a mystery. There are clues of course, the opening monologue with Joaquin looking over LA obsessing over his life choices and ‘admitting’ to exploiting his noteriety as a character actor, telling Anthony and Larry that he will sort things out as usual when they have not arranged the Obama Inaugeration weekend to his satisfaction, kind of points to a man trying to tell us something but it gets lost in a mash up of well, everything! He says he hates his job and compares his life to others who hate their jobs. Like before, for the obsessor, none of this matters. What matters to me is that two years of misery is over. The puzzle falls into place right from the start. The Paul Newman event, Culver City, Diddy, Miami, Lavo, Letterman, The Audio, Two Lovers and then the film’s climax, Joaquin’s performance at Liv in March 2009. What happens inbetween is, for the obsesser, slightly uncomfortable but as I witnessed for the casuals in the cinema, entertainment.
There wasn’t much in that film I hadn’t already seen or witnessed but yet it felt like I was watching something new. There are some priceless scenes, when Joaquin’s friend Edward James Olmos is making his water drop, mountain top speech, you see Joaquin rapping manic like right in his face but you can’t hear him and another when Joaquin turns down Greenberg with Ben Stiller. When Joaquin asks Larry to lead a prayer just before his Liv performance, he tells him to say it out loud ‘so he can hear it’…..genius. There are a number of beautifully funny scenes in it but just as many uncomfortable ones. Joaquin telling Antony that he has scored the coke and he’s not sharing it is nervy stuff for the obsessor. Luckily Larry and Antony are a sight to see in this film. Antony Langdon gives a wicked performance and Larry’s softly spoken gofer is so believable, almost too much! However, not counting the man himself, no-one deserves more praise than than Puff, Mr Combs, Diddy (as Joaquin likes to call him!)……his face during the demo cd playback is a joy to watch. The whole scene is uncomfortably brilliant. If that’s a thing.
I could talk forever about the film and probably will and yet it has its faults. Quite a lot actually. Again its the work of the obsessor to notice the truck load of errors in continuity. I wonder if Casey and Joaquin knew (or cared) that we were watching and noting down every nuance and every little detail just to tick them all off in order during the film? Well, they don’t tick off in order but frankly, it doesn’t matter. It really doesn’t. What does matter is the feeling that all is well in the obsessors life again and that all was always well in the obsessee’s life. The constantly reported scenes of general debauchery, drug taking and prostitues are there, all can see but if you watch closely you will see nothing. Nothing other than a performance. Those scenes are the least convincing of all and just provide entertainment along the way whilst the pieces of this jigsaw puzzle are put together. The part where Antony is accused of betraying him to the press is an interesting one. The leak in reality did happen and I like the way it’s been used and exploited in the film. The mix of what really did happen and what was made up around it is extremely clever. Of course, the director and the actor may now have the final laugh and say it was all intended and all engineered but I’m not so sure. You would not want to play them at Poker.
The year and a half in character was a tough ask and he did pull it off. What he hasn’t pulled off is the performance itself. It’s mighty indeed, mind blowing at times but as Casey says, there is no ‘wink’. There is no tongue in cheek, you know it’s not him, whatever that is actually. It’s hard to say what the point of it all was, only that pair will really know. I had always wanted the answer to that question but I now concede, I actually don’t need to know anymore. The film does it for me, it cuts it. With a horribly over long and far too sentimental ending it doesn’t make it easy to love but love it I do. For the obsessor, I see no other outcome. It has provided everything I needed with entertainment, Joaquin scenes and looks I’d never seen (always nice), answers to my million questions and satisfaction in knowing now, for sure, it was all a horrible dream…..a piece of fiction, tinged with tiny glimpses of the man I so long to know. For the casual, I see questions unanswered and no love will be lost on it. The value for the casual is a difficult one. I believe that throughout this film you see Joaquin the character, Joaquin the actor and Joaquin the man. I’m just not sure when one ends and the other starts. Now that is genius. Maybe when Joaquin laughed his ass off in Venice last week when watching it, he saw what I saw? Just maybe? At the beginning of the film, he asks not to be misunderstood…..and I ask the same of him. Joaquin has managed skillfully to pull the wool over a hell of a lot of eyes with this tale of rise and fall and fall and rise. I do wonder why Casey gave in so quickly and confessed after just a week of the film release but what I do know is, this is not a meltdown, this is not a spoof Borat copycat, this film is a groundbreaker, not perfect, far from it but nevertheless it’s a beginning, not an end. It’s a wickedly contrived mini masterpiece. What Joaquin wishes us to know is never truly clear but in the end, the journey itself is enough. It’s a marvel in committment to the role but leaves me with one final unanswered question. What next?
Karen Piercey 2010.
Poppie September 18th 2010
Brilliant? Sad? Funny? Tragic? Conclusion?
It is all there, mainly glaring you in the face, sometimes though you may have to look closer!
This is purely from my own heart but others may well reflect and know their journey is similar, Joaquin Phoenix is one of those special friends I choose to have in my life, it is a rare friendship and a rare love of a friend because there is no interaction, it is one sided, it is as a fictional friend, basically a fan no less but I believe he knows we exist somewhere out there, that there is a lot of love and admiration for him. I may appear fanatical but that is not the way I see it and I certainly can be critical when I have to be!
I/we lived and travelled the journey through the entire two years of the making of “I’m Still Here”, even the nine months of nothing, obviously well before that too, how do you survive watching a person you love spiral seemingly out of control and so publicly whilst having your hands tied? We did, we were with him in spirit and we never once left his side. There was much heartbreak, anger, many, many questions and theories but ultimately LOVE. We witnessed some people losing faith though, suddenly there was nowhere for us to continue to reach out somehow and pay tribute the way we wanted to, for our own sake we had to be able to do that. Karen and I planned our own path from that very moment until finally our website (JPC) and forum (IAAJP) were born, a place where we can declare with love and passion that “We Are Still Here ” and never once did we leave! How grateful I am that our love was not fickle (and I mean all of us in whatever fan base you’re in), we waited patiently (probably not always patient) for some kind of relief knowing whatever the outcome our love would endure it! This man has conveyed a message that no one else I know would be brave enough to do especially one so famous and well known for privacy! Our patience through this journey has an amazing AND unbelievably happy ending!
I was lucky enough to see “I’m Still Here” twice and even though I was so overwhelmed I managed to understand the many messages this film offers. From the first waterfall scene where as a child he finally is brave enough to take the plunge, the scene where he rescues the moth/bird/?, OMG, that scene in particular for me was so beautiful, this gorgeous caring man with his world tumbling around him saved a creature and set it free. It shows me that no matter how bad it gets the inner passion and love for the lesser being is still overpowering and I actually melted into oblivion. Of course this was not a surprise because I am fully aware of his love for animals, the earth and people! You need to take that moment though and travel the film with that in mind! You will see scenes where it is heartbreakingly hard to watch, the effects of overabundance (although these scenes are miniscule, meaning drugs and prostitutes etc.) you also know their very existence has it’s ramifications and you don’t need to be a celebrity for that message to apply. Of course that is Joaquin’s world but it can be anyone’s (well really, for any of the messages to apply)! The dream book scene, what this is he is reading and from what book I do not know but it was beautiful. The rap shows, funny and tragic all at once, even though I dislike rap I still loved his beats! The interaction with friends and associates throughout, the misunderstandings, accusations, phobias and tantrams, the love and the fun, the before, during and after the famous Letterman appearance which is excruciatingly heartbreaking. Susan Paticola was amazing in this scene, I could feel her pain and the loss of how to fix him, how on this earth could he and did he pick himself up within possibly an hour and appear at the Two Lovers opening night in New York knowing paparazzi would be everywhere, his peers waiting, his fans eager? Even though I believe this movie is fiction, to me Joaquin lived it, he took this character and he lived it! I personally believe his pain at the time was real, his career was really on the edge now and we the people are very judgemental and if you are not in our shoes where the person in trouble is entrenched in your heart I can see how easily at this point some may basically give up, throw their hands in the air, call him a dickhead and move on! End result, career in tatters and how do you mend that? How can you get that confidence back? Well, in this particular case we have an answer to that question, ”I’m Still Here”!
It has all the answers if you allow yourself to understand, it is absolutely BRILLIANT, the actor/activist/gorgeous and talented JOAQUIN PHOENIX has performed his most BRAVEST and HEARTFELT portrayal of all his characters in my personal opinion! Casey, Antony, Larry, Diddy, every other person real or alias involved were amazing, I truly loved it, was overwhelmed but in awe of the genius.
As the credits roll there is another surprise for us, it took my breath away, a song we know about, it had a personal meaning to both Karen and I. It is hard to explain but in a world outside of his we sometimes have to come to our own CONCLUSIONS, this in particular will have meaning for only some of us.
I am no film critic and do not aspire to be one but I have read many reviews and gather from that, that maybe there are some errors but I also wonder if this was deliberate, for me though it made no difference. I could well be noted as an obsessed one eyed fan who clearly has an agenda but fortunately for me, my friend who attended with me is not a Joaquin Phoenix fan, she admires his talent, after the first session when we walked outside she said to me “that was heartbreakingly, disturbingly brilliant”! I can only echo her words!
DO NOT MISS “I’M STILL HERE”!!! Take the journey, Beautiful, Funny, Unbelievably Sad but ultimately, an amazingly brave story told by an amazingly brave actor, Joaquin Phoenix and directed by an amazingly brave director, Casey Affleck!
Poppie September 18th 2010