February 12, 1981 at 11:45. I think that's supposed to be the metaphorical and literal time when Joaquin Phoenix jumped off a cliff. With an opening clip from a home movie, the introduction to the dubious mockumentary I'm Still Here is almost dramatic enough to be in a legitimate documentary. Though the film is not serpentine in the sense that we don't know what the Affleck/Phoenix alliance is trying to say overall (being famous fucking sucks when it's forced on you and will drive you mad), but it is convoluted in terms of the manner in which the message is conveyed (pretending to be a loon for a year to prove a point).
In any case, after our brief glimpse into Phoenix's childhood, we see him roaming around in what appears to be the shrubbery near Mulholland Drive (or some othe creepy part of L.A. with shrubs--and there are quite a few) with his back turned to the camera and his hooded sweatshirt covering his head while he delivers the following soliloquy:
"I'm just fuckin like stuck in this ridiculous like self-imposed fuckin prison of characterization, you know, and it happened to me young. It's like the chicken or the egg. I don't know what came first: Whether they said, um, that I was emotional and intense and complicated or whether I...or whether I was truly complicated and intense and then they responded to it. I don't want to play the character of Joaquin anymore. I want to be whatever I am."
There is definitely a bit of the real Joaquin somewhere amid those solemn words, but it becomes difficult to take his plight seriously (not that we're supposed to) when the next shot Casey Affleck cuts to is of Joaquin prodding at a bird with a broom as his voiceover rants about acting, "You're just a fuckin' puppet. You're this dumb fuckin' doll that wears what someone else tells you to wear, stands where someone tells you to stand, says what somebody else tells you to say. That's not expression. That's not creativity." As far as setting up how Phoenix will spiral out of control, it's pretty goddamn well-crafted by co-writers Affleck and, yes, Phoenix.
It is perhaps because Affleck and Phoenix wrote the script together that there is an elevated perception of how a celebrity breaks down. It's not gradually and then suddenly in a The Sun Also Rises fashion, it's fucking zero to psycho in .3 seconds. While this is amusing to watch during the first forty-five minutes, the hilarity starts to dissipate as the film nears the almost two-hour mark. But they do save one of the best moments for last when Joaquin's assistant Antony takes a shit on his face while he's sleeping out of retaliation for how Joaquin's been treating him.
Another memorable moment toward the end of the film is how Joaquin managed to keep a straight face as Diddy listened to some of the tracks he'd composed, like "Complifuckincation." That performance alone may make him the worthiest actor ever to receive an Academy Award. The parody of a "trainwreck star" reaches its most heightened proportions when Joaquin does a bump of cocaine in his car after Diddy tells him that they can't work together.
After risking his career to pull such an intricate hoax (Phoenix was the undisputed laughing stock of L.A. County, so much so that Ben Stiller and Natalie Portman did a send-up of his new look at The Academy Awards), one has to ask if making the movie was worth the involved process. Eh, maybe. A mockumentary about Lindsay Lohan might have provided a more acute PSA. Additionally, the comedic tone of the film is contradicted when it ends on a note that suggests suicide, failure, and Hollywood's innate ability to drive a person fucking crazy. So maybe there is a little less "mock" to this mockumentary than meets the eye.