MOVIE THEATER REVIEW: “Joker” stars Joaquin Phoenix (Walk the Line, You Were Never Really Here), Robert De Niro (Silver Linings Playbook, Taxi Driver), Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2, Geostorm), Frances Conroy (Six Feet Under [TV series], 6 Souls), Brett Cullen (The Dark Knight Rises, Ghost Rider), Shea Whigham (Take Shelter, American Hustle), Bill Camp (Midnight Special, 12 Years a Slave), Glenn Fleshler (True Detective [TV series], Billions [TV series]), Leigh Gill (Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Game of Thrones [TV series]), and Marc Maron (Maron [TV series], Almost Famous). It is directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover, Due Date), who also wrote it with Scott Silver (The Fighter, 8 Mile). Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a mentally unstable professional clown and wannabe stand-up comedian, takes a downward spiral into chaos and crime after committing a horrible act.
Joaquin Phoenix. Two words that will get me to any theater nowadays. Really, I’d argue that he’s one of the greatest actors working in this generation. Why? Because he takes risks and comes away with monstrous results. He embodies characters unlike any other, akin to the talent of Daniel Day Lewis. So, when I heard he would star in an artistic film centered on the DC character Joker, I was on-board. You didn’t have to tell me anything else. And to no surprise, Phoenix delivers. “Joker” is one of his greatest feats as an artist, as we see the destruction of a tortured man on the verge of a breakdown. Phoenix typically plays this well, having filled the shoes of a few nut jobs, but “Joker” takes it to another level. It’s unforgiving, in your face, and downright wild. In fact, it’s so unnerving that it has taken me days to really assess my opinion; you know it’s a good experience when it leaves you thinking. However, “good” is a strange term to approach when it comes to this movie. It’s nothing like I expected it to be, and at the same time it challenged why I thought otherwise. “Joker” is a character study through and through, but it’s placement is within a world where no one is good. It’s all grey area. No one is right and no one is wrong, pitting no real protagonist for the audience to jive with. Do we side with Joker? We can understand why he is the way he is, that’s a sure thing, but it’s not like we approve of what he is doing. Neither can we of anyone else in the film. You’re either a psycho or a jerk, leaving a skin-crawling impression. There’s a lot to enjoy about “Joker” from a filmmaking perspective. The performances are flat-out amazing, the cinematography is beautiful, the score is fantastic, and the setting is great to take in. It’s a filmmaker’s paradise of aesthetic and design, something that should be recognized at big award shows (or at least viewers). There are quite a few memorable moments to come from this story; some elegant, and some crazy. Arthur is such a strange character that almost begs for a second viewing to fully dive into who he is. It’s a Joker that we haven’t really seen before, with much of this world not really canon with DC at large. To be honest, it didn’t affect me. Because of the approach Todd Phillips was taking with the character, I saw this more as a stand-alone than an installment. The fact that Bruce Wayne is even in this is surprising. Thankfully, Phillips knows what his story is, and balanced masterfully Arthur’s tale and the world around him. I enjoyed the comedy club aspect, as I did De Niro’s role in the talk show business. It’s like a twisted spin on the world of comedy itself and adds another layer to the already complex plot. There’s a lot to take in with this feature, though I will say it comes with a disclaimer. Once the credits rolled and the lights came on, I couldn’t help but feel… empty. Not necessarily dissatisfied, but simply unfulfilled. When I see a movie, I’m not always looking for a happy ending or a hokey message. I find that the best pictures are the ones that have a sense of strong morals; ones that aren’t made to showcase insanity for insanity sake, but paint a bigger image that rings something true. With “Joker” I really didn’t get this. It’s a wild ride filled with intensity, thrills, and chaos, all while putting on a happy face. No, I’m not joining that collection of critics who pan the film for its violence. There’s plenty of movies being released with more blood and kills (all of which praised by the same analysts). What I’m saying is, I gained nothing from the experience. A good performance, sure. Great visuals, heck yes. But as an overall film? I’m left unfulfilled. Sure, you can make the argument for other flicks I may like (primarily stupid comedies), but the fact of the matter is I walked away feeling nothing. As a character study, it’s amazing, but as an overall film, it lacks substance, leaving me at a crossroads. I’ll give credit where it’s due; it’s a wonderfully made picture that checks many of the boxes I look for in aesthetics. If you enjoy this film, I understand why and think that if you are a fan of the Joker you’ll love this. But all in all, “Joker” falls short of perfection. FINAL SCORE: 90%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: