Joaquin Phoenix ditches acting for a rap career in I’m Still Here, a faux-documentary helmed by brother-in-law Casey Affleck that critiques not only celebrity life and culture but those very clichéd critiques as well. In late 2008, Phoenix decides that acting has turned him into a “puppet,” and that true creative expression via hip-hop is his avenue out, a decision that results in a long scraggly beard, perpetually shaded eyes, and a string of increasingly embarrassing public appearances, culminating with a now-infamous 2009 appearance on The Late Show in which Phoenix’s mumbly homeless-weirdo routine is mercilessly mocked by David Letterman. In not only these instances but the ensuing behind-the-scenes fallout – which involve rampaging fights with untrustworthy friends and colleagues, shell-shocked bouts of self-introspection and, post-Letterman, nervous puking in a public toilet – Affleck’s film proffers an adequate verité façade, even if the affair remains clearly a hoax perpetrated by star and director. Nonetheless, in its address of those very “it’s a fake” claims as well as its more general depiction of spotlight disintegration, I’m Still Here paints a compelling and persuasive portrait of superstar narcissism and entitlement, especially once it becomes clear that Phoenix is also subtly mocking the whole self-aggrandizing notion of escaping his movie-acting chains for a life of artistic “freedom.” It’s a clever stunt that shrewdly wrestles with issues of fame, truth and self, albeit a stunt that grows increasingly wearying, with the material never quite matching an awkward record-deal meeting between Phoenix and P. Diddy (the latter offering disingenuous if polite praise for the former’s awful rapping) and the subsequent Letterman fiasco. Still, as a character-version of himself, Phoenix is borderline-remarkable, his sustained expression of raw, confused torment so convincing that, even amidst such con-job proceedings, it feels as if the real Phoenix is actually there.