The Dinner: Black bean bisque, white bean and pancetta soup, Ceasar salad and salami sandwich at the Broadway Grill (314 Broadway East).
Is Mr. Combs in on Phoenix's joke?
The Movie: I'm Still Here at the Harvard Exit.
The Screenplate: I'm Still Here chronicles two-time Oscar nominee Joaquin Phoenix's supposed meltdown after he shot his last film, Two Brothers. Phoenix subsequently sported an unkempt mountain man beard and hairdo, donned dark sunglasses everywhere, announced his retirement (a pledge he's so far kept), tried to launch a rap career, and acted as though perma-drugged (interesting move, legitimate or otherwise, considering his brother, River, overdosed to death at the Viper Room).
The main debate about I'm Still Here is whether or not it's a credible documentary. That a guy who supposedly wanted to ditch the movie biz lets his movie star brother-in-law, Casey Affleck, film his every post-retirement move should be the first clue that it's at least a partial mock. The second is the too-calm cameos of Shawn Combs and Edward James Olmos (!!!), and the clincher should be the film's serenely gorgeous final sequence, in which Phoenix's so-called dad is played by Affleck's, and Hawaii stands in for Panama. (Really, the clincher is Affleck admitting it's akin to Spinal Tap.)
If you accept the film as an elaborate--really elaborate--hoax, it stands as a consistently compelling, borderline brilliant satirization of Entourage-style celebrity culture. If you allow yourself to laugh when Phoenix dresses down one of his assistants (who also appear to be way too in on the joke) or bursts into freestyle raps mid-conversation, then you'll laugh extremely hard. My advice: Like Phoenix, just let yourself go, and remember that he's an award-winning actor for a reason.
When accepting a Golden Globe in the musical & comedy category for Walk the Line, Phoenix pointed out from the podium how funny it was that an actor with such a brooding, serious reputation should be mentioned in the same breath as the word "comedy." It's not funny anymore, namely because in I'm Still Here, Phoenix proves that he can be really funny. If this is playing against type, it's never been done more successfully.
Phoenix's character--the character of Joaquin Phoenix--requires that he remain chronically unshorn and undershowered. When he's not wearing a designer suit onstage at a Miami club, he frequently resembles a homeless man. And the official food of homeless men is soup.
Broadway Grill, a Capitol Hill mainstay if there ever was one, would be a great place for Phoenix to eat, because they've got great soup--the black bean bisque and white bean with pancetta stand out. In the rear dining room are a series of large celebrity portraits by the artist Nick Bombacie; Demi Moore, Madonna, Katy Perry, Enrique Iglesias, and Scarlett Johansson are all depicted. These are individuals who've all enthusiastically embraced the sort of stardom Phoenix is actively rejecting--or pretending to reject. Among these luminaries, with a spoon hovering near his mangy beard, he'd feel as at home as a man of his unique, albeit fictitious, station can feel.