TIFF Film 9
2019 Overall 198
Synopsis: Rent-a-Clown, aspiring comedian, and mama’s boy Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) makes the slow descent into madness that evolves him from man to monster in this re-imagining of the Joker story written and directed by Todd Phillips (The Hangover trilogy)
Review: Send in the clown and give him an eight-minute standing ovation and a beautiful Golden Lion statue. Before I go into my thoughts, and this should go without saying, I will not be spoiling anything about the film, including character appearances or specific plot details. You can look n the character page on IMDB if you really want to know. Think of this as you 30,000-foot view of the Clown Prince of Crime
Let’s get the obvious out of the way, Joaquin Phoenix is arguably the best work actor we have today, and the way he goes all out in this performance is nothing short of captivating. You know he is the villain, and he is initially the flawed protagonist you can’t help but feel sorry for. You know the Joker story and what he becomes, but the is a level of nuance in the way he portrays him next level. Aside from that, Robert DeNiro gives the best performance he’s had in years as the Carson-esque late night talk show host Murray Franklin. Zazie Beetz and Francis Conroy are also strong in their limited roles.
From a story perspective it’s a bit all over the place. The structure is there, the script is there, but there are places where Phillips is trying to fit a square script piece in a round structure hole. Cinematographer Lawrence Sher (who’s worked on many Phillips films but was last seen in Godzilla King of the Monsters) creates an immersive world that feels gritty without looking cartoonish, and the music and score is great apart from one glaring misstep that will be obvious when you hear it.
The Verdict: This is a controversial film for numerous reasons. Is this film necessary? Do we want or need a Joker origin story? Is this a film that glorifies mental illness or class warfare? That’s for you to decide, and the best part is, you’re not wrong. From a pure artistic perspective, there’s a lot to like and Joaquin is a lock for a Best Actor nom. My grade for Joker is an A-.