Movie Review: Joker (2019)

Hoo boy, a lot of talk around this one last year, which is part of why it’s taken me so long to get around to it. Whether people were on the positive or negative side of the discourse, I wanted to wait until shit calmed down before I finally gave it a go. And now that things are a bit more quiet, I can give my two cents. So which side of the aisle will I be on? Let’s find out.

Ladies and gents… “Joker”.

Gotham City, 1981. Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is a mentally ill lower class citizen trying to make ends meet as a clown for hire. However, since the society around Arthur is so awful to him, that is of course easier said than done. As he starts to really come to terms with this, Arthur starts going down a dark and violent spiral of carnage. This movie tries to have a message… or two… or three… or, I think you get the point. “Joker” is trying to say a lot, but never does it in a way that really engages, barely scraping the surface level on any of its ideas. And when you have that surface level stuff over multiple messages it tries to convey, everything gets a bit fucking muddled. What doesn’t help is that the movie really seems to think that it’s really something, but ultimately ends up being almost nothing. Never does the movie get under my skin (despite trying), never does it get me emotionally invested (even though it damn well attempts to), and never does it get me on its side regarding any of the things it tries to say. It’s a shallow mess.

The characters in this aren’t great. The writers have tried giving them depth and nuance, but like the story before them, due to the writing it kinda fails. Joaquin Phoenix plays Arthur, our central protagonist, a poor man with mental health issues. He is basically the punching bag of society, everyone always kicks him while he’s down, he’s not having good days, h- do you see these unsubtle things I’m hammering home? I don’t mind things being obvious, but Arthur’s “development” is so hammered home that it gets a bit much. At least Joaquin Phoenix does a good job with that material he’s given. We also get supporting work form people like Zazie Beets, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham, Bill Camp, Glenn Fleshler, and more, all giving solid work, even if the writing around their characters isn’t great.

The score for the movie was composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir, and it was utterly terrific. It’s intense and dark and scary and one of the most emotionally arresting scores I’ve heard in recent years. It’s by far the best aspect of the movie. There’s also a handful of licensed songs used throughout, and they work fine, I guess. They’re good songs, and they kinda fit the situations they’re used in.

Loosely based on the DC Comics character, “Joker” was directed and co-written by Todd Phillips. And I guess he did an okay-ish job with it. Much like the story, it just feels shallow and hollow. Violence, despite having some genuinely cool blood and gore, lacks impact, and the general shot composition and editing just feels hollow, like it’s trying to be epic and beautiful, but feeling like it lacks something. Lawrence Sher’s cinematography does generally look good, but there’s something about everything around it that just falls flat.

This movie has gotten some mixed reception. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a 68% positive rating. On Metacritic it has a score of 59/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 8.5/10, and is ranked #60 on the “Top 250” list. The movie won 2 Oscars in the categories of Best actor (Phoenix) and Best original score. It was also nominated for an additional 9 Oscars in the categories of Best picture, Best director, Best adapted screenplay, Best cinematography, Best costume design, Best makeup, Best film editing, Best sound mixing, and Best sound editing.

Despite its many accolades, I was honestly not a fan of “Joker”. It’s a shallow drama with muddled messages and surface-scraping drama. The story isn’t very engaging, neither are the characters, the acting’s good though, the score is superb, and the directing is fine. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Joker is a 4.45/10. So sadly I have to say that I’d skip it.

My review of “Joker” is now completed.

*Eyes dart in every direction* Oh dear…

4 thoughts on “Movie Review: Joker (2019)

  1. I too held off from watching this one after all the polarising reviews but unlike you, I did really enjoy this one and found it a powerful work – maybe not Best Picture Oscar worthy but certainly a different and potent drama.

  2. A shame you didn’t enjoy it, but I totally respect your viewpoint. It isn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it and it connected (in some ways) to the ideas I think about often. This film isn’t for everyone (no film is), so a good review, and thank you for sharing your thoughts!

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