Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck take a ride down the white-water rapids of the mockumentary and drag the audience along for fun.
I'm not sure if I'M STILL HERE is more THIS IS SPINAL TAP or THE BLAIRE WITCH PROJECT because it feels like the latter, which is good. Phoenix has said they were inspired by the seriously terrifying rise of reality TV shows and that industry's insistence they were not scripted. As entertainment insiders, Affleck and Phoenix want you to know all those Survivor obstacle courses and Wife Swap marriage meltdowns have their poker game tells.
Phoenix is absolutely mesmerizing from start to finish. He's a mumbling, smoldering wad of celebrity persona drowning in his own stew of self absorption. His bizarrely meek assistants are arrayed around him in a ratty Hollywood villa -- the kind of unkempt real estate you'd expect to see lurid shots of on Entertainment Tonight detailing another celebrity meltdown.
The assistants arrange plane tickets for him, make desperate calls to music producers and struggle to find "JP" drugs in the middle of the night while traveling. One (Antony Langdon) strikes back at Phoenix in a particularly raunchy fratboy revenge scene -- and all I can think of is: David Spade and his supposed fist-a-cuffs with a former assistant. (Affleck has insisted ALL of the film was fabricated even the faux feces which was made up of hummus and coffee grounds).
Everyone visits the celebrity "JP" -- Ben Stiller and Edward James Olmos among them. And it's Olmos who manages to steal one scene from Phoenix's over-the-top character by giving a speech that is part inspirational and part utter bullshit.
The L.A. Times reviewer sniggered there was 'more male frontal nudity than you’d find in some gay porn'. Bitch, please. It's good to know the MPAA aren't the only homophobic twits deciding the fate of film but, if movie critics are that intimidated by a 2-second shot of a guy's wilted turtle, they should stick to reviewing Michael Bay's crap.
The most provocative sequences in the film are when Phoenix is in character and interacting with people who were not in on the joke. Their slack-jawed stares and stammering conversations create the kind of cinéma vérité French filmmakers dream about.
It's a shame the Hollywood machine was too stupid to see the genius in this film. The joke's on Tinseltown, the industry too busy self congratulating to truly laugh at itself.