I’m sure by now you’ve read many, many reviews on Joker, you’ve probably heard many from friends and colleagues. They probably go something along the lines of: Joaquin Phoenix is great, but the film…not so much.
That seems to be the general consensus. You can see this best illustrated in the confusing world of The Guardian newspaper which has no less than 14 reviews of the film. 14. I’ll say that again in case you didn’t quite get it, there are no less than 14 separate reviews of one film.
They range from “it’s the best thing since slice bread”, to “it’s the worst thing I’ve seen ever, period” and all between. In other words, they’re hedging their bets, covering all basis.
Here at OC Movie Reviews we already have one review from our man Curt Wiser, which you can read here. Curt loves the film, praising both studio and director for creating such a bold piece of cinema.
I’ll level with you, I went into Joker expecting to hate it, I thought I would find it dull, slow, turgid. I am very happy to say that was not the case at all. I can’t say I loved it, not as much as Curt, but I didn’t hate it either.
Calling it a bold piece of cinema is extreme in my humble opinion. Yes, it’s a massive departure from the other large blockbuster movies floating around at the moment and, yes, it’s different from most origin stories we’ve seen.
However, it isn’t without its flaws. If you look at it for, arguably, what it is meant to be: an origin tale of Batman’s foe. I’m sorry to say it fails, quite badly, unless you skip to the last 30 minutes or so, in which case it’s pretty good.
It fails because we already join Joker when he’s a flawed human. He already has issues. You feel like there could be an origin story to the origin story to explain how he got to where he is in this origin story. And that’s not good, although maybe it was the plan all along.
Putting that to one side though, and I feel you can for a movie that runs at over two-hours, as a stand-alone film, as a film, Joker is fantastic. Now, it is completely fair to see that the majority of this is down to Phoenix’s performance of the man. The Joker here is based very much on the legacy left by Heath Ledger’s amazing performance in the Christopher Nolan trilogy, and that feels the right one and Phoenix picks up the mantle and makes it his own.
But that Phoenix is a good actor has never been in doubt, has it? I’ve personally never heard anyone question it, maybe his film choices at times, but his ability? No.
What about our director, the one Todd Phillips, who brought you The Hangover trilogy, Starsky & Hutch, Old School and Road Trip, how’s his transition from comedy director? Well it’s absolutely fine, what would you expect? That he’d make the cameraman fall over in some slapstick manner? Suddenly switch everything to bright, lurid colours? Throw in a fart gag? Of course not. He directs with aplomb giving Joker a bright, yet at the same time, muted colour palette.
If you go into Joker as a Batman fanboy, hoping to see the origins of the Joker, you’ll be disappointed. Go into Joker to watch a good film, albeit not perfect – the comedy clip that plays on De Niro’s talk show for example, this is meant to be 1981, no-one would have filmed a no-name first-time comedian, the camera would have been the size of a person and weighed about the same for starters, this type of thing just didn’t happen at this time. That it’s left in is odd and makes you wonder how many rewrites where done and whether one of those rewrites was a change in period.
Anyway, go into Joker to watch a good film, to see a magnificent performance from a bloody good actor and a director who does brilliantly to let him shine, and you’ll be a happy bunny.
Oh, and that whole violence thing? Don’t make me laugh. You can boil the story down numerous ways, one of which would be: Arthur Fleck, a man on a huge range of prescription medicine (In 2017, the US Department of Health and Human Services declared the opioid crisis a public emergency), is bullied, gets a gun and goes on a killing spree (334 in 2019 up to the end of September America). And some Americans are worried this will START violence? What are they watching, because it isn’t the news and it certainly isn’t Joker.