2005 Photo of Joaquin Phoenix
Actor Joaquin Phoenix left acting to rap. He now documents his journey. CC by Tony Shek/Wikimedia Commons

In 2008, Joaquin Phoenix announced he was leaving behind his acting career, to the consternation of his fans. He announced he was going to become a rapper, in a bizarre appearance on the David Letterman show. A film about him and his new career was made, titled “I’m Still Here.” The reviews are beginning to come out, as the film has just hit theaters.

Some kind of rap doc

There is a selling point to this film. People want to know what Joaquin Phoenix has been up to. The Joaquin Phoenix Letterman appearance, a disaster, may be the last recollection many have about him. He was disheveled, to say the least. Completely unhinged may be more like it. A good deal of the film is more about the state of Joaquin Phoenix. The “I’m Still Here” reviews talk about that in detail. Roger Ebert, in his review in the Chicago Sun Times, sums up the allure of the film, which is a talented actor that has gone completely off the rails. Ebert doesn’t have a lot to say about everything else in the movie. Ebert also maintained that the unhinged Phoenix is the film’s selling point.

Spinal Rap

Music documentaries have a benchmark to live up to. Some will name obscure documentaries about Bob Dylan or the Rolling Stones, but the real standard for any music documentary is “This is Spinal Tap,” the “mock-doc” by Rob Reiner about an English rock band that disintegrates and then redeems itself. However, there’s no comparing “I’m Still Here” reviews to “This is Spinal Tap” on Rotten Tomatoes. An institution of film for the last 20 years, “Spinal Tap” has a 96 percent Fresh rating. “Still Here”: 55. Common themes in “I’m Still Here” reviews are Phoenix’s drug use, unhinged behavior and lousy production by the film’s director, Casey Affleck., the younger brother of Ben Affleck, and is also, as fate would have it, married to the sister of Joaquin Phoenix.

Some kind of monster

This film can’t be about a pre-eminent rapper about to make it big, because he hasn’t; but rather it is about a talented person who left a successful career behind and is about to implode. Since the advent of reality TV, documentary features about people heading for disaster are in vogue in this age of schadenfreude. Many reviewers have brought up that drugs and insanity killed River Phoenix, Joaquin’s older brother. It is never fun to see someone with talent throw it away. Joaquin Phoenix may be determined to do so.


Roger Ebert: http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100907/REVIEWS/100909992

Rotten Tomatoes: http://rottentomatoes.com/m/im_still_here_the_lost_year_of_joaquin_phoenix/

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