2019 Film Reviews – 57: Joker [dir. Todd Phillips; 2019]

There is an almost palpable truth at the core of Joaquin Phoenix’s detailed, jittery, utterly mesmeric central performance in Joker — an account of the ‘birth’ of Batman’s arch-nemesis, set in a New York heavily influenced by Scorsese’s Taxi Driver and King Of Comedy. Refusing to fall into any potential genre traps, Phoenix plays the increasingly unwell and put-upon Arthur Fleck with what feels like an instinctive, genuine understanding of the plight of people suffering from serious mental illness. Sadly, the rest of the film isn’t quite as mature. Using the sort of broad brushstrokes one might have expected from a blustering adolescent, Phillips paints a picture of a world where divisions between people are laughably clear-cut, the establishment is all-corrupt and nuance doesn’t exist. As a result, it’s hard to see it as anything other than a cynical, nasty piece of work that tries to add more fuel to modern fires, rather than seeking compassionate ways of putting them out.

Dariush

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