Casey Affleck, Worst Brother-in-Law of the Year

Imagine that your wife’s brother, who is also one of your best friends, is in trouble. He is ruining his health, career and reputation with habitual drug use and other self-destructive behavior. He seems to be deluded, yet his business associates and friends are enabling his behavior. A tragedy is  unfolding, and no one seems to care.

What do you do? Do you…

1. Stage an intervention, and work to get your brother-in-law the help he so desperately needs?

2. Ignore the problem, and hope he straightens himself out on his own, or…

3. Direct a documentary with his deterioration as its subject, exploiting your sister’s brother to boost your filmmaking career and make some money, while making sure that his humiliation gets the maximum public exposure?

If you are Casey Affleck apparently, the clear answer is #3. I just saw “I’m Still Here,” Affleck’s fascinating, sad and unforgivable portrait of what passes for Joaquin Phoenix these days. The former movie star, best known for his bravura portrayal of Johnny Cash in “I Walk the Line,” is now a toxic combination of  addict, depressive and egomaniac, pursuing a hopeless career in hip-hop for which he has approximately as much talent as Dick Cheney, and I may be being unfair to Dick. In the film, Phoenix looks dirty and disoriented, but also manages to be thoroughly dislikable; the loyalty of whatever fans the actor may have left from his movie days will not survive his best friend’s ruthless exposure of his worst moments…and there do not appear to be any good ones.

How can Affleck justify this horror show? His exploitation of Phoenix is like filming a drowning man and doing nothing—in fact, it isn’t merely like that, that’s exactly what it is. We have seen similar cruelty in reality shows, such as the voyeuristic Anna Nicole Show, which showed the late professional bimbo wandering through her days in a blowsy, drugged-out fog, and the sad Scott Baio reality show, which paid a washed-up former child star to let every woman he had ever known tell him what a jerk he had been to them. None of those shows, however, were produced by the relatives of the rotting ex-stars, which is what one would expect. What one doesn’t expect is for a person who should be reaching out to help his brother-in-law and friend to give him a push over the edge to oblivion instead.

I’m hoping that there is part of this story that we don’t know. Maybe Affleck made a desperation deal with Phoenix that he would do the documentary if his brother-in-law would agree to get a psychiatric evaluation. If not, “I’m Still Here” is Hollywood at its coldest…a betrayal not only of the duties of family and friendship, but also an abdication of every human being’s obligation to care about others.


UPDATE: Well, now Casey Affleck is claiming the film was a hoax. I’m not convinved, but never mind. The ethics verdict is only different in its details.

11 thoughts on “Casey Affleck, Worst Brother-in-Law of the Year

    • That’s nonsense. It’s been almost two years. The guy is ill. Nobody is that weird or talented…even if he is faking (which he’s not), it’s still evidence of a malady. The Kaufman theory just excuses voyeurs for mocking him. Some people also think Ed Wood made his terrible films that way intentionally, and that William Hung is really an Oberlin grad, and that Kim Kardashian is secretly brilliant. See the film, if you can stand it. Phoenix is not pretending. It will be an excuse for his “friend” though.

  1. I’ve disliked Joaquin Phoenix for a long time. It wasn’t until the press obligations for “Walk the Line” that I found out that he refuses to watch a movie in which he stars. The impression that I was left with was that it wasn’t a simple dislike of seeing himself, but more of an abhorrence to himself. The guy genuinely hates himself and that’s probably the reason I don’t care for him.

    The guy was messed up before this act and I’m not sure anyone recognized it for what it was. It should be obvious to everyone now. I don’t think there is anything Casey could have done himself to bring down “Mr. Phoenix” other than to “expose” the problem to the public.

    Hopefully now the public recognizes the problem and true help can be rendered.

  2. It’s this reason why I always resisted when people said “Watch Overnight! It’s a documentary about Troy Duffy (of Boondock Saints fame) flaming out and pushing everyone away and burning bridges!”

    I always thought, “OK, if this guy is really a belligerent alcoholic, as they seem to portray him, maybe the thing he needs is help, and maybe the thing he doesn’t need is someone making a documentary to demonize him…”

  3. The IMDB just went out and said that it was a mockumentary. I don’t think that necessarily changes the nature of the original ethical analysis, but as a frequent reader of this site, sometimes I see you alter a publication after the news changes (like that girl who they presumed drowned, but was found alive later). I always think it’d be better to simply make an addendum attached to the original document than delete the erroneous information (I hesitate to use the word “Stalinize,” as that’s FAR too severe for this circumstance). I’ve been meaning to bring that up, but now seems like a good time.

    • I don’t regard IMDB as a reliable source. AS for the corrections, I may write about the isue. Most of the time, the changes in facts don’t change the ethical point, which should be read in light of the available information. But I don’t want erroneous facts, as opposed to opinions, on the net if I can correct them. I’ll usually mention that there was a correction.

  4. Jack,
    The movie is, and always was, meant to be a joke. The claims that it is a true-to-life documentary was only a way of building hype. Whatever Juaquinn Pheonix’s struggles with drugs, depravity, and depression may be, those shown in the movie are entirely staged.


  5. Pingback: Fake or Real, “I’m Still Here” is Unethical « Ethics Alarms

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