We will never know if Casey Affleck made a mistake when he let slip that 'I'm Still Here' is a work of fiction early in the film's release. The announcement, planned or otherwise, colours how a viewer views this mockumentary.
For a long time, the many stunts, appearance and media buzz that sprung from Joaquin Pheonix career change allowed the project to be question mark in the public's mind: is this actually happening?
The number of views, column inches and airtime that the Letterman appearance alone generated showed how valuable this confusion was to the makers of the movie.
Continues after the jump
For the benefit of those without E!, I'm Still Here follows the supposed career change of award-winning actor Joaquin ('Walk-in') Phoenix from movies to music, more specifically rap.
Having tire of directors, producers, and writers telling him where to stand, what to say, where to look, 'JP' looks to the music industry as a way out of his 5 star rut and an opportunity to fully realise his creativity.
His attempt to establish himself as a real rap artist is littered with A-Listers from the entertainment industry along with the obscene pleasures that stardom allows.
The movie consists of doco-style footage, beginning from the point where he makes his sudden announcement on the red carpet of a movie premier.
Like a star on its last legs, we see JP physically expand the more he nears his point of implosion at the end of the movie. The chiselled bod flabs out, and his appearance gets rattier with every frame.
It seems almost inappropriate, but comparisons can be made between this movie and MJ's final bow 'This is it'.
Both feature circles of deferential, adoring aides who will not question the wisdom of 'the talent' no matter how far down he's slid. Out of love, they agree with whatever he says and rationalise whatever faults.
No one says no to JP. By doing so they become enablers of his self-destruction.
Is this project then an honest exploration of celebrity or a couple of A-listers' self-indulgent way of spending some lazy millions? For the amount of effort it took the makers to craft the elaborate hoax that actually put their credibilities on the line, I give them the benefit of the doubt.
There is more to 'I'm still here' than the graphic benefits of stardom portrayed. There is thought amidst the chaos: the pain in the pleasure of the empty lifestyle, the frustration of not being able to see a real way out of an unfulfilled life, and the humiliating disappearance into nothingness.
It may not be immediately obvious, but any lingering doubts of Joaquin Phoenix's talent vanishes after this outstanding performance.
Letterman vs JP , Round 2