Thursday, October 24, 2019

Joker

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz
Director: Todd Phillips
Running Time: 2 hours, 2 minutes
Rating: R


I love the Joker character just as much as the next person. I'm just as fascinated with Heath Ledger's portrayal and was just as hyped to see Joaquin Phoenix's interpretation, like everyone else. And I certainly love Joaquin Phoenix, just like every other cinephile. However, I unfortunately found "Joker" to be just a little short of my extremely high bar. I think Joaquin did a fabulous job embodying this disturbed character, but was this his best work? Not in my opinion. The actors (and there are a lot of great ones in this film) did the best with the material they were given, but was it incredibly strong material? Not really. I think we will always be excited to indulge in another Batman film, especially one that tells the villain's tale, and I look forward to the next one, but for now, I think you can safely pass on "Joker".

Arthur Fleck is a mentally ill aspiring comedian who lives with his mother (Frances Conroy) in Gotham City. It's pitiful - he's the butt of jokes, gets bullied and beat up by kids younger than him, but he tries to be a good son and take care of his mother. He suffers from a real-life condition where he uncontrollably laughs, seemingly at the most inopportune times. It's easy to empathize with him in the beginning. One afternoon, he has an interaction with neighbor Sophie (Zazie Beetz) that seems to send him on a spiral. He obsesses about their brief encounter, writes jokes based off of it, and even follows her. We hope their odd friendship might be good for him, but ultimately, the darkness in Arthur takes center stage.

I loved seeing Bobby De Niro as late night talk show host/comedian Murray Franklin - where has this man been?! He is delightful in this role, and Arthur both idolizes and envies him. I can't overlook the brief moment we have with Brian Tyree Henry (of "Atlanta" fame) and I would have loved more screen time with him, as always.

The film makes references to the Bruce Wayne family, and it does leave open the possibility of a sequel, or at least more stories to follow. I think one of the main issues I had with the film was the pacing. It was a bit slow and I wish the movie would have just gotten on with things already. I think the best/worst moment was when a group of corporate "thugs" started singing "Send in the Clowns" from "A Little Night Music" to Arthur on the subway. I almost burst out laughing. The ending is pretty uncomfortable (when it finally gets here), but honestly, I was just glad for it to be over.

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