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JOKER, A Dark, Tense Movie With An All-Time Performance From Joaquin Phoenix (SPOILERS)

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The new ‘Joker’ movie is finally here and we are going to give you our thoughts it down… with SPOILERS

*** THIS IS A REVIEW WITH SPOILERS ***

JL

Jeff (93/100): ‘Joker’ is a tense, unsettling character study that is backed by an all-time, Oscar-worthy performance from Joaquin Phoenix. This new rendition of the Joker is unique and unforgettable, all while leaving you asking questions about the character himself.

Let me get this out of the way first: this movie is not as “thought-provoking” about political and social issues as people make it seem. For me, all of those elements were upfront and there to service the story. If there was any commentary, it was about the state of mental health care in the country. Even so, the part of the movie that actually got my brain working was everything centered around the character of the Joker. Who is he? What is real? What is fantasy? The mystery, intrigue, and ambiguity around Arthur Fleck (the Joker) was incredibly well put together and the intention of director-writer Todd Phillips…

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“I don’t want to say whether [anything] is real or not. Because, part of the fun of show it to many, many people is that they all have a different reaction… You don’t like to answer those questions, because you like to see the different things people take away from it.” – Todd Phillips to Comic Book NOW!

Here’s one more comment that sparked my theory that I am about to go into…

My theory is that anything you see with Arthur Fleck (or Joker) that includes fluid movements (dancing, running, etc.) or him talking with ease and no interruption from his laughing condition is not actually happening. The audience is seeing what Arthur Fleck views as his perfect world. His fictional “reality” can be seen when he makes his first “appearance” on the Murray Franklin Show and also on his “dates” with his neighbor Sophie. But I think Phillips wants to hide the rest of it throughout the movie.

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This might come off as pretentious, and I am sorry if that is the case, but people are completely missing the point of the movie if they’re focusing on the political and social issues. I find the examination of Arthur Fleck and Joker to be fascinating, it’s a character study and Phillips and Phoenix do a great job laying out a complex subject that makes you think throughout the movie. It’s uncomfortable at times (most of the time), too, while Joker is a villain, the movie puts you in situations where you might actually feel sympathy for a terrible person. ‘Joker’ is challenging and there’s nothing better than a movie that can give you such a unique experience.

It goes without saying that the technical elements in ‘Joker’ are absolutely fantastic. The movie is gorgeous and I’d suggest everyone check it out in IMAX. Musically speaking, the score is a great service to the plot and the music sets the tone well in every scene. There’s a look and feel that makes ‘Joker’ stick out from DC movies and all other comic book-based movies of the past.

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My only “negatives” would be centered around the story as a whole, which feels a bit too familiar. It pulls from movies like ‘The King of Comedy’ and has parallels to something like ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘American Psycho’. The twists and turns with ‘Joker’ are a touch too predictable. But Phoenix and his portrayal are so fucking incredible, that it forces you to really ignore any broader issues with the movie.

I understand the controversy surrounding ‘Joker’ and there is no question that they toed the line with that they made, but I think this movie and its creators deserve praise for not just being bold but being able to deliver on their vision. Joaquin Phoenix is going to be nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars and it is well deserved. His version of the Joker shouldn’t even be compared to Heath Ledger’s Joker, they’re two totally different characters. One of the best actors in the world combines with an incredibly intriguing character study to make a must-see movie with ‘Joker’.

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KJ

KenJac (85/100): ‘Joker’ is as dark, twisted and as gritty as advertised. Joaquin Phoenix put on a fantastic performance that makes you viscerally uncomfortable while also sitting in awe at the effort he puts into his craft. The movie itself is beautiful in its own way as it takes you into the heart of mental illness with a not-so-subtly makes a commentary on how it’s treated in this country. There are definitely some problems throughout, but ‘Joker’ is a unique entry into the comic book movie codex and it deserves recognition for that achievement alone. 

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Joaquin Phoenix is really the only cast member worth mentioning when talking performances, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I loved his portrayal of Arthur Fleck because it felt so much more grounded in reality than almost any other comic book movie character. Fleck is shown to be mentally ill, anguishing at his position in life and how he is treated by society. He’s not a trickster or some pure agent of chaos and there’s a very authentic pathos in the way Phoenix portrays him. He also does crazy perfectly. Everything from the laugh to the run to the tone of voice. All of it was deeply unsettling. 

From a technical standpoint, there is a lot to like. The keyword I don’t mean to use a lot in this review is authenticity. The set pieces and production value were all fantastic, and it helped you immerse yourself into both the time period and the desperation of Fleck’s social standing. The soundtrack was also phenomenal and one of my top 5 of the year. I think my issues with the movie come with some of the plot choices. The storyline was fairly predictable, and felt like an amalgam of ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘You Were Never Really Here’. The latter didn’t get a lot of eyes on it, but it’s a fantastic movie and a better Phoenix performance in my opinion. 

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There is no comic book movie like ‘Joker’, which is an achievement. 200 movies in this genre come out every year and not all of them have the ability to differentiate themselves from the pack, but this movie did with ease. It’s not the best Joker performance (obviously no points against the movie or Phoenix for that) and it’s not the best comic book or DC team, but it’s different. That, in itself, is a breath of fresh air.


The movie is Officially Buttered even without Trillballins’ score. We will do an in-depth review of the movie on Lights Camera Barstool later in the week. Make sure to rate all 2019 and 2018 movies in the links below.

2019:
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