In which I explain why Joaquin Phoenix is a genius:
Now, I'm a fairly big fan of Joaquin Phoenix's work. I think that between James Gray's Two Lovers and James Mangold's Walk the Line he's proven himself very capable of doing more than his arguably one-note bad-assery in Gladiator. I did not think him capable of such a performance that he gives in brother-in-law Casey Affleck's mockumentary I'm Still Here (2010).
I'm not going to actually review the film or debate its merits as a mockumentary, but I will say that since it's been revealed as a hoax I think it makes it not only that much more watchable, but also that much more effective. This is a performance on the level of Sacha Baron Cohen's Borat or Bruno characters, in the sense that it consumed 2 years of Phoenix's life. Baron Cohen is notorious for staying in character through the filming period of his films, but Phoenix spent years possibly ruining his actual career and the public's opinion of him. That, my friends, is a feat. And to have a character so fully realized in his delusion and opinions. I can only assume that's what happens when you live inside a character for so long.
|Look at Diddy's face. YUP.|
When it comes to critically-acclaimed roles it's become a joke how often 'lack of vanity' can net attention and admiration. Charlize Theron in Monster, Nicole Kidman in The Hours, Marion Cotillard in La Vie En Rose, and Christian Bale in Everything-he's-ever-done have all contorted their faces, bodies, and hairlines for roles that have won them Oscars (in Bale's case it'll be Feb. 27) and placed them among the upper-echelon of acting talent in Hollywood. Now I agree that vanity or no vanity those performances are all stellar and some of the best I've seen on film, but what about a role like Phoenix's which is so vanity-free that it could DESTROY YOUR CAREER?! I highly doubt any of those four actors would take such a risk. He not only shits all over the entire studio system but over the press system, the filmmaking system, the red carpet, and the awards season! The amount of destruction he creates is stunningly hilarious and much like a car crash, impossible to turn away from. And it's really a credit to Phoenix's talents as an actor.
|This photo does look quite set-up.|
This whole situation was questioned as a hoax from the day of its inception, so I find it interesting that Phoenix was able to fool America so adeptly. I think the moment that really dispelled the hoax idea from most people's minds is his appearance on David Letterman when he was supposed to be promoting Two Lovers. Phoenix appears so genuinely averse to the situation and discouraged at Letterman's attempts to poke fun that you want to laugh and yet as an audience member you're suddently jolted into realizing this man may not be faking after all. Here's the appearance for your viewing pleasure:
What a performance, right?! I recommend everyone watch the film despite the defecation, language, and constant drug use which I hope to god is all just part of the act because it is NOT classy.
Film Grade: B- (It's really a mesmerizing character study...as I said, it's like watching a car crash)
Joaquin's Performance: A (For truly duping all of America and almost ruining your career with a fully-realized character.)