Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
Joaquin Phoenix announced to the press in 2009 that he was done with acting and would be transitioning to his new career as a rap artist. As revealed by this mockumentary by Casey Affleck, the entire operation, which included an infamous appearance on David Letterman’s show in which Phoenix was unresponsive and unfriendly, was a giant hoax that turned out to be in the service of making this film. Scenes of him putting on his new persona and developing his music (which is somewhere in quality next to the song Mark Wahlberg records in Boogie Nights) are done in real time and include public performances, while others involving his relationship with business associates veer between pranks and staged encounters (Edward James Olmos is an undetectable player in the operation, while Ben Stiller is too false and contrived to keep the thing afloat). It’s an interesting experiment and I personally see no harm in punking an industry that can handle being taken down a peg or two, but what Phoenix and Affleck present here is still something of a chore to sit through. Phoenix’s “performance” is a one-joke situation that is enough for a five-minute Funny or Die segment. The overall feature length of the film makes us see the wisdom of one reporter’s audio clip, who wonders aloud if what Phoenix is doing is real, if he genuinely will never make another film again, but “most of all…do we care?” Performances in films like Two Lovers and The Master mean we should, but here it is hard to hold on to that thought.
Directed by Casey Affleck
Screenplay by Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix
Cinematography by Casey Affleck, Magdalena Gorka
Produced by Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix, Amanda White
Music by Marty Fogg
Film Editing by Casey Affleck, Dody Dorn