I am stressed as Hell. I am having moments where my head is spinning, where my breath is coming short, where my stomach hurts, and I get that free fall feeling.
I watched I’m Still Here this weekend, the movie about Joaquin Phoenix’s nervous breakdown. You know that it’s fake because at the end it says “written by Joaquin Phoenix and Casey Affleck” and also because who lets their brother-in-law snort coke off a prostitute’s boobs, makes a movie about it, and then feels good about themselves?
I love Joaquin Phoenix. I always have. I loved him back when he was Leaf, carrying around a bag of porn in Parenthood, as much as I loved him as Johnny Cash. He always seemed tragic, and able to access unnatural depths, even before he watched his brother die in the street. Have you ever heard that phone call, where he desperately calls for help as River breathes his last? I think about it every time I look at him.
I have brothers, too.
What was so impressive about the movie is not the breakdown itself, we all have those to varying degrees, but that he took this very carefully designed identity, brand even, and told it to go fuck itself.
I would never do that. Not ever. Not many people would. You work so hard to get there, and then you mess with it like that? It incensed people, but I’m glad he did it. It was kind of amazing to watch.
He says in the movie that he doesn’t know whether he is really a tortured intense person, or whether people just told him he was that way, and so that’s who he became. Aren’t we all like that?
People are constantly analyzing me in a way that sounds both shocking and unfamiliar to me, ways that don’t ring true, and yet I suppose if people are perceiving it, it must be on some level. In the past, before I really understood myself, I was all too ready to accept what people told me about myself, to wear it like a costume and try to perform according to description.
The development of your personality, of what people come to expect of you happens so insidiously. Completely and publicly annihilating it is something not many people do.
I’m wound so tight, and seeing that movie gave me a chance to unravel without actually doing it, and gave me a vicarious catharsis in a moment when I really needed it. It was his Into the Wild experiment, and when he pukes in Central Park post infamous Letterman appearance, you know he’s hoping he didn’t eat the wrong berries. I have the utmost respect for him, for risking everything like that. I don’t think it was in service to his ego, as some do. I figure he was unstable as it was, feeling shackled to something he couldn’t control. I think he made this movie was so that when he spun out, he would be there to watch it happen, instead of trapped somewhere in his head, and would be scripting it as he went.
He has big balls, and I like them.