I was intrigued to see what Phoenix would bring to this production – I was already convinced it was a hoax and the opening sequence where we see Phoenix with his back to us in some threadbare hoodie, mumbling about his identity issues confirmed that this was going to be a piss-take. This wasn’t some good to honest revelation; this was just going to mock the whole idea of it. I think. I still don’t get it (and for those who have read previous reviews of mine, if I don’t get the point, for me that’s the worst kind of experience). I would have switched it off if I happened to check it out on TV.
A reviewer on IMDb (Colin_George) puts it thus:
'…This ineptly assembled alter to egotism harps incessantly on a point it never makes about the nature of fame.’It was shot with awkward steaming from each frame like some silly home film. I’m still perplexed as to what Affleck was hoping to get with this – it felt like they arrived at the cutting floor with no decent content.
'But put-on or not, the Phoenix in the film has no arc. His character is no closer to achieving his dream by the end, nor are we any closer to understanding what that dream means, to him or anyone.’
The film is crass, crude and distasteful; college boy humour that doesn’t attain anything. Phoenix is left muttering the f word every five seconds which is an immediate sign that this person has no power to relate anything other than a ream of expletives and shouting that amplifies his constantly raw voice that he no doubt loves the sound of. I didn’t.
His whole attempt to be a rapper is a farce – he has no skill, his lyrics were barely discernible through his smokers voice, he didn’t have the persona or attitude, just a F*** you approach that was juvenile, fortified by his constant saving-grace-of-a-lyric ‘b****’ at the end of each line. He victimizes himself, aligning with those people who have fallen into self-narcissism, believing they can be talented at anything. Instead, were we supposed to feel sorry that his ‘worth’ had prior come out of his talent for acting? ‘Boohoo, I was a good actor.’ But then again, maybe we aren’t supposed to feel any of those things because it was all so silly – particularly his return to Panama and that ridiculous long shot with Einaudi’s ‘Due tramonti’ playing.
‘Are we meant to feel sympathy for the megalomaniacal millionaire? Or are we meant to sneer at the idiot white boy who thinks he can rap? Affleck wants it both ways, but achieves neither…The character is supremely unlikable, and no honest attempt is made to humanize him or to peer below his portly, unkempt façade.’
It left me with nothing other than irritation and a niggling idea that the makers of this film wanted me to feel that way. Maybe? It paid little attention to the idea of him becoming a rapper – hardly any footage was prescribed to that part of his journey – most of it was there to show his screw ups. Who cares? It kept making reference to dreams yet for not one moment did the film show us that Phoenix really wanted to be a rapper, I mean really wanted to be. It felt like some flippant decision. It the end this didn’t smack of courage or journey. It was just a confused mess.