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Joker

✭ ✭ ✭   Read critic reviews

Canada, USA

2019

Rated R • 2h 2m

Director Todd Phillips

Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy

Genre Crime, Thriller, Drama

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During the 1980s, a failed stand-up comedian is driven insane and turns to a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City while becoming an infamous psychopathic crime figure.

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WHAT ARE PEOPLE SAYING?

Asia Cureton Profile picture for Asia Cureton

As someone who is not interested in superhero or comic book inspired movies, this movie really surprised me. I was enthralled from start to finish. The performances were stellar, and Joaquin Phoenix really made me feel for Arthur Fleck's character. By then end of the film, I was rooting for him wholeheartedly, which kind of scared me. It was easily one of my favorite movies of 2019. A sympathetic look at the effect of poverty on mental illness, and a demonstration of how a class-based society, not much unlike our own, can create violent conflict and uprisings.

Cait Mohr Profile picture for Cait Mohr

Going into this film with the full intention of spending two hours making ironic “we live in a society” quips to my partner next to me, I was frankly shocked when I realized that I, too, had fallen victim to one of the Joker’s most sinister tricks: I actually liked this movie. That being said, I hesitate to say that this film was particularly well-executed aside from Joaquin Phoenix’s excellent performance. Wedged between crypto-Marxist class analysis and a slogan on a Hot Topic t-shirt, Joker bludgeons you over the head with its various predictable welcome-to-my-twisted-mind-isms to a groan-inducing extent (although anticipating them can be a fun little game for you and your moviegoing friends). HOWEVER, I genuinely and emphatically loved Joker both in spite of and because of these flaws. As someone with chronic mental health issues, I found the waifish and unstable Arthur Fleck to be an endearingly relatable character, like the tragic and romantic heroine of a melodrama onto whom I could project my insecurities and working-class anxieties. While perhaps unintentional, Joker serves as a poignant critique of the modern neoliberal austerity state and the various way in which those maligned as “villains” are often the victims of callous divisions between those who have wealth and power and those forced by their material conditions to suffer in obscurity. While I wouldn’t recommend it to all of my film-loving friends, for some, Joker is just right.

Eddie Godino Profile picture for Eddie Godino

As someone who loves the Batman mythos, I wasn't sure if a Joker movie without the Caped Crusader could even work, and after seeing it, I'm still not. The film goes to great effort to redefine the Joker's origin story so audiences can root for him. Rather than adhere to the classic, chaotic-evil, psychopathic version of the character, the film creates a new iteration of the Joker - one whose actions are supposed to be justified because people are mean to him. While this version is more true to life (most real serial killers had traumatic lives), the whole story reeks of nihilistic angst, and the insinuation that people are allowed to do terrible things because society is innately unjust unnecessarily politicizes the character. That being said, Joaquin Phoenix gives a great performance. The shadow of Heath Ledger difficult to escape, but Phoenix really makes the role his own, and it helps that this version couldn't be more different than Ledger's in terms of personality. This Joker isn't a schemer; he's far more rash and imbalanced, which adds a thrilling element to the story because no one knows what he'll do next. Overall, I give the movie big props for providing a fresh, unique take on a character who has been around for the better part of a century, but I still believe a Joker needs a Batman to balance him out.

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WHAT ARE CRITICS SAYING?

100

Empire by

Bold, devastating and utterly beautiful, Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix have not just reimagined one of the most iconic villains in cinema history, but reimagined the comic book movie itself.
55

TheWrap by Alonso Duralde

The broadness of Phoenix’s work allows the rest of the ensemble — particularly Conroy, Zazie Beetz as a single-mom neighbor, and MVP character actors like Bill Camp, Shea Whigham and Brian Tyree Henry — to dial it down and give effectively human-size performances.
58

IndieWire by David Ehrlich

It’s good enough to be dangerous, and bad enough to demand better. It’s going to turn the world upside down and make us all hysterical in the process. For better or worse, it’s exactly the movie the Joker would want.
80

The Hollywood Reporter by David Rooney

This is Phoenix's film, and he inhabits it with an insanity by turns pitiful and fearsome in an out-there performance that's no laughing matter. Not to discredit the imaginative vision of the writer-director, his co-scripter and invaluable tech and design teams, but Phoenix is the prime force that makes Joker such a distinctively edgy entry in the Hollywood comics industrial complex.
50

RogerEbert.com by Glenn Kenny

As social commentary, Joker is pernicious garbage. But besides the wacky pleasures of Phoenix’s performance, it also displays some major movie studio core competencies, in a not dissimilar way to what “A Star Is Born” presented last year.
100

IGN by Jim Vejvoda

Featuring a riveting, fully realized, and Oscar-worthy performance by Joaquin Phoenix, Joker would work just as well as an engrossing character study without any of its DC Comics trappings; that it just so happens to be a brilliant Batman-universe movie is icing on the Batfan cake. You will likely leave Joker feeling like I did: unsettled and ready to debate the film for years to come.
100

Total Film by Jordan Farley

More character study than comic book movie, and anchored by an Oscar-worthy Joaquin Phoenix, Joker is a bravura blockbuster that proves you don’t need superpowered scraps to dazzle.
100

Time Out by Phil de Semlyen

Joaquin Phoenix is devastating as the villain-in-the-making in this incendiary tale of psychological escape and psychopathy.
80

The Telegraph by Robbie Collin

A part of me found Todd Phillips’s radical rethinking of the Batman villain Joker thrillingly uncompromising and hair-raisingly timely. Another thinks it should be locked in a strongbox then dropped in the ocean and never released.
75

The Film Stage by Rory O'Connor

For all its merits, however, Joker relies on perhaps a touch too much exposition as it attempts to shape a digestible origin story.

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