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Preview review: Joaquin Phoenix is more here than ever. Or is he?

August 19, 2010 |  7:48 pm

MV5BNTE5NjA2NzM5Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwODg5NTE3Mw@@._V1._SX640_SY948_ Months before its release, "I'm Still Here" was already generating a healthy amount of buzz. The documentary/mockumentary, out next month, of course has director Casey Affleck filming Joaquin Phoenix as the actor tries to launch a career as a rapper and engages in some very bad behavior.

As we reported in June, the movie apparently contains some pretty out-there stuff:  Phoenix "snorting cocaine, ordering call girls, having oral sex with a publicist, treating his assistants abusively and rapping badly."

But Phoenix -- who only five years ago earned an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Johnny Cash in "Walk the Line" -- can't be serious, right? The whole thing has to be a joke, some kind of social experiment aimed at making a statement about the malleable nature of celebrity. 

A newly released teaser trailer -- only a minute long -- throws some light on the movie, though we'll admit we're still not entirely sure whether the film is a joke.

In the trailer, Phoenix appears disheveled, just as he did during that bizarre David Letterman appearance last year while he was promoting his last film, the family drama "Two Lovers." With a bushy beard and a head of hair flying in all directions, Phoenix looks stoic throughout the trailer, frequently hiding behind dark sunglasses. He is photographed numerous times. He puts his head in his hands, overwhelmed. He boards a private jet. He hugs P. Diddy.

The entire thing is kind of a blur, but it seems the film's very obvious message is about identity, and how fame can change your public persona. We think the voice-over of some wise old man telling Phoenix that he's a "mountaintop waterdrop" who "doesn't belong in this valley" with all of the other drops of water is funny, if also a tad heavy-handed.

But that doesn't mean we're not intrigued by Phoenix's journey. Whether or not he's really trying to be a rapper is almost a moot point; it seems like he (and Affleck) are commenting on what it means to be a part of the modern-day Hollywood machine. Which is more than most actors usually have to say.

-- Amy Kaufman

Twitter.com/AmyKinLA

Photo: The poster for "I'm Still Here." Credit: Magnolia Pictures.

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