Joker ★½

Arthur Fleck is a lonely, depressed man living a miserable life. Such an interesting backstory for a character of the magnitude of Joker. The potential for what could’ve been a nuanced and multi-faceted deep dive into such a character is huge; however, Todd Phillips takes this film and this character down a journey full of surface level themes that are shoved down your throat for the entire 2-hour runtime. My mouth was agape at some of the choices made regarding character motivations and dialogue. Phillips doesn’t trust the audiences capability to pick up on anything through the use of visual storytelling, and so he writes everything into his poorly delivered dialogue. There’s absolutely no subtlety regarding the portrayal of these “woke” statements that Phillips and company believe are breaking new ground. Everything is literal and I wish that Phillips would leave something for audiences to chew on instead of spoon-feeding them these painfully hollow statements on society’s faults. Fleck is a morally confused character and if we were able to get into the mind of Fleck and feel/understand his rage this film would’ve been much more effective. Everything feels very distant as if Phillips doesn’t want to explore the morality of the actions that Fleck commits. Joaquin Phoenix tries his very best with this material and he’s easily the best part of the film. He evokes so much in his body movements that it genuinely left me with goosebumps at points. Sadly, that’s what I wanted more of. The brief moments of genuine terror where Phoenix is relishing in the pain and suffering he has caused is where Joker works best. Those moments are unfortunately overshadowed by Phillips’ desperate attempts to be taken seriously. There really is an extraordinary film beneath the surface, but unfortunately, we get a narratively unfocused take on mental health, violence, and classism that another director could’ve handled more delicately.

Onto Birds of Prey.

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