After Casey Affleck revealed that I'm Still Here was a hoax, I could go see it. I can't take any more of this Exit Through the Gift Shop, Catfish, etc."is it real or not?" nonsense.
My favorite indication of Joaquin Phoenix's false hip-hop persona (besides the fact that the film has fucking writing credits (pull your head out of your ass Roger Ebert)) was his rap name itself: JP. Every time I heard "JP" I didn't know to whom we were referring, as the man's name starts with W and F sounds.
My main takeaway from the film is that Hollywood fame is hellish. There's so much empty waiting around time, arranging meetings that won't be kept, finding cars and drivers and planes to nowhere, nibbling unsatisfactory room service, listening to the dull squawk of "entertainment news," saying "what's up?" to dozens of strangers and letting your assistants run your life so that you can emerge from these uncanny spaces and be erased in a storm of camera flashes.
In general it might make you so depressed that you start to look like Vincent Gallo with a more uneven part in the mustache of your beard.
I'm Still Here is only interesting in the parts where pieces of Phoenix's acting life come through. He has a nice beef about the Academy stupidly praising Revolutionary Road over Reservation Road and it's interesting to learn that he doesn't watch the movies in which he acts...maybe, if you can take him at his word. Stupid mockumentaries.
All of this leads to the question: have you seen Joaquin's theoretical swansong, James Gray's Two Lovers, even if he hasn't? His performance, as the all-time most irresistible 30-something man who lives with his parents, is immense, one of the finest I've seen in the last decade. Leonard Kraditor's combination of conviviality, moroseness, intelligence and naivety isn't quite like any other character I can recall. Phoenix, totally locked in, makes his every move worth close inspection.
He so outshines Gwyneth Paltrow (resembling a forlorn corn husk as the supposedly passionate Michelle) that I felt bad for her. She should have been driven to retirement, though I'd be remiss not to mention her flashing a single boob for Leonard, which was world class. Michelle is better paired with her married lawyer boyfriend, played by a bespectacled Elias Koteas with his usual aplomb.
Vinessa Shaw fares somewhat better as Sandra, Leonard's conventional choice for a mate (they usually speak on a land line while Michelle talks to Leonard on a cell phone, in a not terribly subtle move by Mr. Gray). The parental-approved couple share a fabulous scene at a ice blue boardwalk restaurant where she observes that Phoenix is frozen in place and gifts him a pair of gloves. The gesture is warm but the situation isn't. Napkins arranged in the water glasses around the couple are like stilled fountains.
Isabella Rossellini, playing Leonard's mother, is the only figure intuitive enough to see Leonard's next moves. She's there in the end (at a chilly New Year's party) to observe her son throw it all away in the name of love and then take it all back. Phoenix acts the climax with few words but we see perfectly Leonard's blend of total calculation and terror. His behavior is cruel enough to poison one's idea of love--what a feat!