Context changes everything and while many people thought the joke was on Joaquin Phoenix, the tables have been turned with Phoenix and Affleck hoodwinking many in the media, film reviewers and audiences too.
Nowhere is this clearer than in Youtube comments posted around Phoenix’s appearance last year on David Letterman. Whereas some comments were fairly adamant that this was a stunt, especially given the extra information that a ‘documentary’ was being made, many comments viewed Phoenix’s performance as genuine and thus in need of a serious reality check. The following remark captures the spirit of comments posted
‘This interview was disturbing to watch. Looks like the old boy is strung out on drugs or he’s having mental problems. I hope he’s just putting on an act. He’s one of the best actors out there and I’d to lose him like his brother’.
However a fresh wave of posts on the Youtube video of Phoenix’s Letterman interview are now appearing in the wake of the news that Phoenix’s interview was what Casey Affleck called in the New York Times, “a terrific performance, it’s the performance of his career”. So now the news is out, people are reassessing the interview as ‘A classic performance’. However, the joke seemed to be lost on many film reviewers where Dana Steven from Slate for example wrote (in a review I imagine she will be eventually embarrassed about), “The worst thing about I’m Still Here (Magnolia Pictures) is the fact that it exists.” In writing this review, and there are others like it (see Metacritic) Stevens is, though perhaps unintentionally, part of the story. Sucked into scheme created by Phoenix and Affleck and good on them for being able to do that. Without having seen the movie (though I really would like to), it is difficult to comment on its purpose though it seems pretty clear that one of its goals is to actively subvert the media and our preoccupation with celebrity.
Of course, this has been done before and on David Letterman no less. One only needs to watch the master Andy Kaufman on the David Letterman show to see where Joaquin Phoenix obviously got some inspiration.