Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019) wr. Phillips & Scott Silver, dp Lawrence Sher, music Hildur Guðnádottir

Joaquin Phoenix (Arthur Fleck, Joker), Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy

I found this really troubling. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't happening in NYC but in Gotham City. But I'm afraid there are many people who have watched the film and who don't perceive the difference, and think rioting dressed as clowns and killing the rich would be just the bees knees.

The very personal violence committed by Arthur Fleck is horrible, but I found the street scenes more disturbing. So I take quite a different view of the film from Michael Moore's (below). I find some comfort in these words from the BFI reviewer (also below), but only these: "Ideas-wise, it’s only slightly less superficial than so many other comic book movies...", because, as "entertainment", I definitely didn't find it "a thrill to watch".

I didn't find Phoenix's performance "entertaining". Tho I think he deserves the Oscar he'll probably win, I don't think he was under Todd Phillips' direction at all. I'm guessing that Phillips believed that all he had to do with Phoenix was to let him off the leash (and let him do scene after scene with his shirt off) and that he was onto a winner. And the film has certainly been a huge winner. However, I personally dislike performances which hang to a large extent on the potential damage that the actor has done to their body. I would much rather watch a healthy actor interpret a character rather than live it.

Christina Newland in Sight&Sound: "This might be the greatest issue with Joker, that the ideological mish-mashing feels confusing; right-on in one moment and uncomfortable in the next. Narratively, there are real moments of shock, degradation and exhilaration in the film, and certainly this is true of its performance from Phoenix, who is magnetic. Ideas-wise, it’s only slightly less superficial than so many other comic book movies, but on pure entertainment factor, it’s a thrill to watch."

Michael Moore in Facebook:
On Wednesday night I attended the New York Film Festival and witnessed a cinematic masterpiece, the film that last month won the top prize as the Best Film of the Venice International Film Festival. It’s called Joker — and all we Americans have heard about this movie is that we should fear it and stay away from it. We’ve been told it’s violent and sick and morally corrupt — an incitement and celebration of murder. We’ve been told that police will be at every screening this weekend in case of “trouble.” Our country is in deep despair, our constitution is in shreds, a rogue maniac from Queens has access to the nuclear codes — but for some reason, it’s a movie we should be afraid of.
I would suggest the opposite: The greater danger to society may be if you DON’T go see this movie. Because the story it tells and the issues it raises are so profound, so necessary, that if you look away from the genius of this work of art, you will miss the gift of the mirror it is offering us. Yes, there’s a disturbed clown in that mirror, but he’s not alone — we’re standing right there beside him.
Joker is no superhero or supervillain or comic book movie. The film is set somewhere in the ‘70s or ‘80s in Gotham City - and the filmmakers make no attempt to disguise it for anything other than what it is: New York City, the headquarters of all evil: the rich who rule us, the banks and corporations for whom we serve, the media which feeds us a daily diet “news” they think we should absorb. This past week, a week when a sitting President indicted himself because, in true Joker style, he was laughing himself silly at Mueller’s and the Dems’ inability to stop him, so he just quadrupled down and handed them everything they needed. But even then, after ten days of his flaunting his guilt, he was still sitting with his KFC grease-stained nuclear codes in the Oval Office, so he told Captain Sketchy to fire up the helicopter, the sound of its blades revving up, meant only to alert the reporters to scurry outside for the daily “press conference” — Trump walks outside into the deafening cacophony of the whirlybird and publicly and feloniously asks the Peoples Republic of China to interfere in our 2020 election by sending him dirt on the Bidens. He and his magic carpet of hair then walked away and, other than the citizen howls of “CAN YOU BELIEVE THIS?!”, nothing happened. As Joker opens this weekend, Joker, Jr. is still still sitting at John F. Kennedy’s desk in the Oval Office on the days he shows up to work, dreaming of his next conquest and debauchery.
But this movie is not about Trump. It’s about the America that gave us Trump — the America which feels no need to help the outcast, the destitute. The America where the filthy rich just get richer and filthier.
Except in this story a discomfiting question is posed: What if one day the dispossessed decide to fight back? And I don’t mean with a clipboard registering people to vote. People are worried this movie may be too violent for them. Really? Considering everything we’re living through in real life? You allow your school to conduct “active shooter drills” with your children, permanently, emotionally damaging them as we show these little ones that this is the life we’ve created for them. Joker makes it clear we don’t really want to get to the bottom of this, or to try to understand why innocent people turn in to Jokers after they can no longer keep it together. No one wants to ask why two smart boys skipped their 4th-hour AP French Philosophy class at Columbine High to slaughter 12 students and a teacher. Who would dare ask why the son of a vice-president of General Electric would go into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT and blow the tiny bodies apart of 20 first-graders. Or why did 53% of White women vote for the presidential candidate who, on tape, reveled in his talent as a sexual predator?
The fear and outcry over Joker is a ruse. It’s a distraction so that we don’t look at the real violence tearing up our fellow human beings — 30 million Americans who don’t have health insurance is an act of violence. Millions of abused women and children living in fear is an act of violence. Cramming 59 students like worthless sardines into classrooms in Detroit is an act of violence.
As the news media stands by for the next mass shooting, you and your neighbors and co-workers have already been shot numerous times, shot straight through all of your hearts and hopes and dreams. Your pension is long gone. You’re in debt for the next 30 years because you committed the crime of wanting an education. You have actually thought about not having children because you don’t have the heart to bring them onto a dying planet where they are given a 20-year death-by-climate-change sentence at birth. The violence in Joker? Stop! Most of the violence in the movie is perpetrated on the Joker himself, a person in need of help, someone trying to survive on the margins of a greedy society. His crime is that he can’t get help. His crime is that he is the butt of a joke played on HIM by the rich and famous. When the Joker decides he can no longer take it — yes, you will feel awful. Not because of the (minimal) blood on the screen, but because deep down, you were cheering him on - and if you’re honest when that happens, you will thank this movie for connecting you to a new desire — not to run to the nearest exit to save your own ass but rather to stand and fight and focus your attention on the nonviolent power you hold in your hands every single day. Thank you Joaquin Phoenix, Todd Phillips, Warner Bros. and all who made this important movie for this important time. I loved this film’s multiple homages to Taxi Driver, Network, The French Connection, Dog Day Afternoon. How long has it been since we’ve seen a movie aspire to the level of Stanley Kubrick? Go see this film. Take your teens. Take your resolve.

Anonymous director and Academy voter, quoted by IndieWire: "Joker I don’t really love. On the plus side, Phoenix is hypnotic and amazing. It’s the best thing Todd Phillips and Lawrence Sher have done. On a philosophical level it thinks it’s deeper than it is. When I saw the trailer, I told a friend, 'this looks like a mass shooter’s favorite movie.' The actual movie is obviously not that. I don’t actually know what it was trying to say. The more Phillips and Scott Silver explained it in interviews, the less I understood it. The film struck a chord with $1 billion, it grossed more than Star Wars, but you can’t mention it in the same breath as Taxi Driver or A Clockwork Orange. It’s a good movie, not a classic. It’s my least favorite. It’s crazy Dark Knight didn’t get a Best Picture nomination and Joker did. ...
Best Actor. Joaquin Phoenix. He is going to win. It’s an amazing performance, but it’s not unlike any he’s ever given. Not true. He was equally hypnotic and disturbing in The Master and You Were Never Really Here. It’s no surprise. It’s on brand for Phoenix, we’ve seen him do it before. His commitment to a part is extraordinary. Everybody else is strong in the category."

Garry Gillard | reviews | New: 6 October, 2019 | Now: 31 January, 2020