Is Casey Affleck’s documentary about Joaquin Phoenix, I’m Still Here, real or a hoax? That’s been a question that everyone has been asking ever since we first heard about the film, which follows Phoenix as he tries to become a hip hop musician after retiring from acting. Now, we have an answer from Affleck himself: it’s all an act and a hoax. You can read Affleck’s quotes after the jump along with why I’m very let down by this news.
Affleck came clean during an interview with The New York Times today. The actor said “It’s a terrific performance, it’s the performance of his career”. He then goes on to talk about how he never intended to trick anyone and how “The idea of a quote, hoax, unquote, never entered my mind.” He goes to say that he wanted audiences to “experience the film’s narrative, about the disintegration of celebrity, without the clutter of preconceived notions.” The interview later on makes it clear that except for a snippet of a home movie that’s used in the film, everything else is not real and an act.
I’m extremely let down by Affleck. It’s not that I actually wanted the “documentary” to be real and that I was looking forward to buying Phoenix’s hip hop album. I’m just let down because the mystery has been ruined so early. Part of the “fun” of seeing I’m Still Here was that you would be watching something that, if real, would be uncomfortably candid and personal. You would be left with that doubt of what was real and what wasn’t, and that doubt would be part of the film’s magic.
I was looking forward to seeing the film and then talking to other people about it, but now I’m not really looking forward to it anymore. One of the reason’s why Exit Through the Gift Shop continues to be one of my favorite films of the year is because of the whole “real or hoax?” conversations that come up when you talk about the film. I’m saddened that Affleck chose to let the secret out so early since the only people who got to have that discussion about the film are mainly the critics and film fest goers who have seen the film so far. Now, all that’s left for the rest of us who were waiting for the film to open around us or to be released on DVD, is a mockumentary where we get to see Phoenix goof around and try to rap. The mystery, doubt, and fun are all gone now.