With the overwhelmingly negative reaction to his lead performance in Napoleon, Joaquin Phoenix is hopelessly stuck between a rock and a hard place — people are sick of watching him play weird and sullen wackos but they also won’t accept any attempt he might make to play normal. His doleful nut persona can no longer be used without spurring mass derision on the part of Joe and Jane Popcorn.
“Joaquin Phoenix’s One-Man Cult of Depressive Method-Acting Vanity,” posted by Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman:
“Joacquin Pheonix’s character in I’m Still Here is an actor who replaces performance with the actorly exhibitionism of mental illness. And that, in a way, has become the story of Joaquin Phoenix as an actor.
“Whether he’s taking on the role of one more morose everyman dweeb, a Batman villain, or Napoleon, he plays severely damaged people, but what he’s really doing is projecting the dramatic image of himself as an actor reaching into the lower depths.
“On occasion, he transcends the self-focused gloom and brings off something miraculous. I thought he was genuinely great in Joker, in part because the director, Todd Phillips, knew how to build and sculpt Phoenix’s performance; let’s hope that he helps Phoenix bring off a comparable feat opposite Lady Gaga in Joker: Folie à Deux.
“But as films like Napoleon and Beau Is Afraid reveal all too clearly, Joaquin Phoenix has become an actor who needs to be rescued from his worst impulses. Too often, he sinks into his own torpor, steamrolling his movies with the depressive wacked song of himself.”