TIFF Movie Review: Casey Affleck's I'm Still Here

It is the opening day at the Toronto International Film Festival and this morning we screened, back to back, two movies directed by Affleck brothers: Ben Affleck's The Town and Casey Affleck's I'm Still Here. Hit the jump to read my mini review for I'm Still Here or watch some video reactions I recorded after the screening with Alex from FirstShowing and Jordan from TheFilmStage.

Ben's brother (and equally talented actor) Casey Affleck makes his feature directorial debut with the documentary I'm Still Here. The movie chronicles a year in the life of Joaquin Phoenix, from the moment he announces his retirement from acting (Affleck had cameras on the red carpet recording JP's reveal to the television show Extra) to his transition into a rapper. This is probably the first and only film that qualifies as a prequel to an episode of the David Letterman show.

It is hard to talk about the movie, as everyone seems to be more concerned with if the movie is a complete set-up or if it is real. Joaquin's strange antics lead many to think it's an act, while I don't believe it is as simple as that. This is not like Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat — either Phoenix remained in character for over a year, or this is the real Phoenix. And even if Joaquin did remain in character for over a year (which would be the ultimate method acting performance), when how long does it take for a performance to become reality?

The best moments in the film involve the reactions of other people, and more notable celebrities such as Ben Stiller and P Diddy, to Phoenix's crazy antics. It's almost like a big screen adaptation of Punked without the big reveal at the conclusion. It is entertaining, but more as spectacle than art. The narrative is almost nonexistent, and the film says almost nothing about celebrity culture or the obsessed media that follows it. I'm not even convinced that it says anything about Phoenix as a human being. But maybe that's the point.

I recorded a video blog reaction with Jordan from TheFilmStage and Alex from FirstShowing, which you can watch below: