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Joker (2019) review

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Joker (2019)

If one considers Joker to be a superhero or supervillian comic book type film, then it has a wider brush of plausibility it can use, rather than if it is saddled with the confines of a potential true to life story. However, despite its title, Joker is not comic book material, but an R-rated psychological thriller. The story grabs one’s attention right out of the chute, but by the third act (about the point that the clown masks appear), it has gone off the rails. From that point on, there is not a shred of plausibility, even to the level of a comic book; and it brushes right up against triteness.

To be sure Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the title character was first rate, memorable, and certain to be Oscar nominated, although to my taste a greater performance was his Freddie Quell in The Master. Phoenix has a natural affinity for, and an ability to portray weird, threatening, or stoner/druggy type characters. His role in You Were Never Really Here was in many ways similar to his Joker role. Arthur Fleck was right squarely in Phoenix’s wheelhouse-- a perfectly thrown pass which he ran with to a touchdown.

Hildur Guonadottir’s music score was sneaky-good, and perfectly captured the mood of the action. But it was the phenomenal cinematography by Lawrence Sher that really aced the film’s tone and era. Liberty was taken with the story’s time period, which should be in the 1930s/40s, but of course there was no television then, nor would the settings be nearly as undemanding to portray as were the early 1980s.

One wonders who besides Warner Bros./D.C. needed another Joker portrayal. The character has been well featured many times since the 1940s. Will the figure become part of one’s necessary repertoire? “Have you done Hamlet? Macbeth?" "No, but I’ve done the Joker.”

So it was the screenplay itself which capsized the film.
The schizophrenic, likely hebephrenic, Arthur Fleck was pushed too far beyond what would be capable of the character introduced in the film’s first half. The uber violent scenes were unnecessary, and likely inserted simply to satisfy the blood, gore and sadism seemingly required by today’s younger audiences. And what was the story’s message? That poor, disenfranchised and envious folks should dispatch with anyone who has made it in society; sort of like Antifa on steroids? Storm the Bastille. Off with their heads. Comparisons were made between Fleck and Travis Bickle of Taxi Driver. Bickle was an oddball, but he had a moral code. And his sense of right and wrong forced him to rescue a girl forced into prostitution, which culminated in a happy ending.

There must have been a lot of indecision and argument about Joker’s ending, because it felt like it was ending 3 or 4 times. The final selection seems to be wide open for a sequel, although Phoenix has stated that he would not entertain another. Still, if a big enough pile of millions were stacked in front of him…

Doc’s rating: Acting 9/10, production 8/10, screenplay 4/10



Excellent review...not sure I agree with everything you've said, but I love the way you said...really well written.
Well thanks, Gideon. Nice of you to say..



The trio of ratings you gave are spot on. Screenplay was lacking.