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I'm Still Here
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that I'm Still Here is presented as a documentary about actor Joaquin Phoenix, who began behaving strangely in the spring of 2009, when he claimed to be retiring from acting to embark upon a career in rap music. Directed by Phoenix's friend/brother-in-law Casey Affleck, the film was revealed to be an elaborate stunt/hoax after it was released, but that doesn't change the fact that it showcases some truly awful behavior, including an onslaught of foul language (particularly "f--k"), drugs, booze, and sex with prostitutes (there's both male and female nudity, as well as some scenes that almost show actual sex acts taking place). Although it's definitely not for kids, the movie does provide an interesting commentary on pampered, spoiled celebrities.
What's the story?
According to the events documented in I'M STILL HERE, In 2008, actor Joaquin Phoenix decided he'd had enough of acting -- and that he wanted to quit and begin a career in hip-hop music. The film follows him over the course of the following few months as he fights with his friends and assistants, avoids publicists, agitates journalists and interviewers, and tries to track down producer Sean Combs (a.k.a. "P. Diddy") to begin working on his record. A few live rap performances don't go as well as he'd hoped, and in his private hours, Phoenix swings from exaltation to rage. Everything culminates in his infamous February 2009 appearance on The Late Show with David Letterman. Will Phoenix continue along this self-destructive path, or will he find his (new) place in the world?
Is it any good?
Much of the attention surrounding this troubling film initially centered on whether it was real or a hoax. The film itself doesn't answer that question, but director Casey Affleck (who's also Phoenix's brother in law) confirmed that it was indeed an elaborate stunt shortly after the movie's release in Sept. 2010. Frankly, either way, the movie raises some interesting questions about celebrity privilege and categorization. Phoenix (or at least the "character" he's playing in the movie) assumes that because he's famous, he can start his rap career right away, without working for it. On the other hand, who's to say that he can't switch careers?
Affleck's direction is intimate, but not exactly pretty. The sound isn't good, and Phoenix's songs are usually muddled (what is audible sounds awful). The film itself is sporadically funny, and the star's behavior is so abominable that it's both fascinating and aggravating. You can almost begin to feel sorry for him; he's clearly crying out for something, but he's so abrasive and selfish that many won't want to stick around. Bottom line? Since it turns out that the film is a hoax, you could argue that this is the performance of Phoenix's career.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Phoenix's behavior in the film -- including swearing, drinking, smoking, drugs, and fighting. Were there any consequences for his actions? If not, should there have been? What do you think would happen to non-celebrities who behaved this way?
What is the movie saying about celebrities? Is it out to convey a specific message? Is it successful?
It turns out that Phoenix's behavior here is part of a hoax. Is it funny? What do you think Phoenix and Affleck's goal was?
- In theaters: September 10, 2010
- On DVD or streaming: November 23, 2010
- Cast: Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix, Sean P. Diddy Combs
- Director: Casey Affleck
- Studio: Magnolia Pictures
- Genre: Documentary
- Run time: 108 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual material, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some drug use and crude content
For kids who love docu-style films
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.