The nice thing about living in a (bigger) city is the opportunity to watch indie flicks before they get to wide-release. My friend Conrad suggested that we see I’m Not Here, Joaquin Phoenix’s documentary of his seemingly rapid fall from grace as a respected actor into a dubious career as a hip-hop artist. Despite the fact that I have a hard time dealing with second-hand embarrassment, I couldn’t pass the opportunity up. I had heard from the very beginning that this was an elaborate hoax. Why anyone would want to make themselves look crazy and ridiculously self-absorbed is beyond me. One of my friends suggested that Joaquin is probably rich and bored and looking for a new project.
I did enjoy this documentary (up until the very end, when it became too ridiculously self-indulgent for its own good). I cringed – a lot. It was painful to watch at times. They show the Letterman interview in its entirety. There’s a scene with Ben Stiller that I’m still unsure is real or fake, and seeing Puffy’s reaction to Joaquin’s demo cd is the highlight of the film. But it was funny, which is why I’m convinced it’s a hoax. What I’m unsure about is if the rest of the players were in on it, or if Phoenix purposely kept them in the dark to get an genuine emotional reaction from them. How terrible would Casey Affleck be if he released a film of his brother-in-law’s descent into self-destruction? That wouldn’t be fun to watch at all. But if you view this as a mockumentary, it’s hilarious and painful. Fake or real, you have to wonder why you enjoy watching what is clearly meant to portray a rough time for someone. What does that say about our culture? Regardless, it’s an interesting documentary and I enjoyed it, even with the questionable entertainment value it provides.
Also – it made me sad to see Joaquin look so gross, because I had such a huge crush on him during the Walk the Line years. I had the soundtrack and I would play it over and over and pretend that he was singing to me (DON’T JUDGE ME), so when I saw him looking like the Unabomber and snorting coke off a hooker’s breast, I was like “JOAQUIN, WHAT HAPPENED? EVEN IF THIS IS IN THE NAME OF ART, YOU ARE MAKING ME SAD WITH YOUR LACK OF PERSONAL HYGIENE.”
But then I saw this picture of Joaquin showing up to the film’s premiere, and it fills me with hope, because I think that it means that he is back on track to being hot again. Or at least taking daily showers.