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GrahamS.

Joker (2019)

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I saw Joker yesterday afternoon and—after all the controversy and hype—thought it was....OK. 

The pluses: Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is fucking amazing. Throughout the first part of the film—which I genuinely was swept up in— and the lesser second half, he gives a live-wire performance that makes the movie better than it otherwise would be.

I liked the first half of the film a lot. The script is never perfect—most of the characters other than Arthur Fleck (AKA Joker) aren’t really fleshed out—but the film does a really good job of putting you inside Fleck’s head. I have some issues with how the film depicts mental illness (I have struggled with depression in the past myself) but there are a lot of aspects that It nails dead-on. It is gritty and unflinching and I thought it was really effective (although it is entirely possible that other people might find it triggering, so I’ll send up that warning for you).

There is no CGI overkill (or any CGI, that I really noticed). 

The minuses: The second half (and especially the climax) of the film is simply  too busy. The film starts as a portrait of mental illness and a failing bureaucratic system, and if it had stuck with that it could have been great. But it tries to connect to the Batman origin story to a degree that feels shoehorned in by the end. It never successfully shows why The Joker appeals to his deranged fans, we’re just supposed to accept it because it is canon. It feels like lazy writing that ends up shooting the film in the foot, despite Phoenix’s performance.

Also, Arthur Fleck’s mental illness as he becomes Joker does turn into a broader stereotype. It’s a tonal mishmash—the film wants to be gritty and realistic, but you can’t do that when you’re turning the antihero into a comic book villain. The final scenes of the film do seem to revel in the fact that he’s gone bonkers simply to show him doing violent, crazy shit. It’s a film that seems to be building to a point about mental illness but then keeps undermining its own point. 

Finally, There’s a point midway (or perhaps later) through the film where it could have reimagined the Joker/Batman universe in an interesting way. It doesn’t and it feels a bit cowardly for taking the lesser route.

Despite all this, if the film still appeals to you, I do recommend it for Phoenix’s performance and the parts of the film that do work. It was good enough to make me wish that it had been better and I’m glad I saw it.

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I'm on the fence about this one. It feels like I've been hearing about it forever, and the security and news coverage almost daring people to commit acts of violence, add in some middling reviews from people whose opinions I trust, and the one-millionth fucking time we have to watch Batman's parents get murdered. But, those same reviews praise JP's performance, so, fence.

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I had no real expectations, given that from the first trailer this looked like such an odd thing, so I can't really say I was "disappointed."

But it does feel like it only gets halfway there to being a great movie. Aesthetically it's great, really sets a nice atmosphere and looks good, nothing like what you'd expect from the guy who made The Hangover and Old School. Phoenix gives a great performance, no doubt. But I'm not sure Todd Phillips has anything to say about society or humanity other than "some people are really fucked up, man." Superficially it's similar to classic Scorsese like Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy, but it misses the details and subtleties that make those movies great. Biggest example is that there are basically no other characters besides Arthur. There are other PEOPLE in the movie, but none of them feel like fully fleshed characters. Scorsese uses those other characters as counterpoint, to demonstrate how depraved the protagonist really is. This movie is just in Arthur's head all the time, which is tiresome after a while.

Those other movies also have a gradual build, taking their time to get to the point of no return for their characters. It's less than an hour in and Arthur has already gone off the deep end in this one. There's not much more to get out of him as a character after that, and the development of his character seems to be the whole focus here, to the exclusion of all else.

And yeah, the origin story stuff seems half-baked.

 

So if his adoptive mother was in the asylum and there are records of her abusing him and everything, why did she get to keep him? Why doesn't he remember any of this? No social workers came to the house and talked about it? If they were "off the grid," then why did he have a public psychiatrist assigned to him in the first place?

What time period is this taking place in? Seems like it's the 70s or early 80s, but then De Niro's talk show host gets great-looking footage of Arthur's routine in a comedy dive bar. Who bothered to record that? Someone brought a giant camcorder into the club and no one stopped them? A major network show would consider this worthy of an on-air bit, some amateur comedian no one's ever heard of?

I dunno, still worth seeing I guess? It's certainly trying something.

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So I really enjoyed the movie as it broke down an iconic character in a grounded manner as opposed most of what’s been done before. The way that there isn’t some accident at Ace Chemicals or whacky instance that made Arthur who he was was a breathe of fresh air for me. For the complaints I’ve seen from people saying it wasn’t what they were expecting, they follow that by saying they were wanting to see an action film or standard comic book movie, which you can see this wasn’t going to be if you’d seen any of the trailers.

As for some of the questions about the movie, it is set in 1981 but it’s not explicitly stated. Also, how the mom may have still gotten custody, given the time it’s set in, corners were shown to be cut all over the place in regards to mental health, so if she could show she was “cured” the state would likely give her her child back , especially considering it was her boyfriend beating Arthur, who could not remember those events for a variety of reasons such as repressed memories, being too young, or brain damage from the abuse.

All in all I’d be amazed if Phoenix doesn’t at least get a Best Actor Oscar nomination from this.

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I liked the movie pretty well, some of it is quite amazing, but my main complaints are superficial. First, we don't need the Joker's background filled in. He's better as pure chaos, I don't want the logic on how he got there. It's scarier and much more villainous without it.

Second, that backstory seems fairly obvious, no? A loner who lost his job and been abused and struggling comic? These aren't very creative choices. Why not like make him like a successful sitcom actor who somehow flips out? Or what if he was the Robert DeNiro tv show host instead? The Joker is a wild character and his backstory, if needed, should be insane too.

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2 minutes ago, AlmostAGhost said:

I liked the movie pretty well, some of it is quite amazing, but my main complaints are superficial. First, we don't need the Joker's background filled in. He's better as pure chaos, I don't want the logic on how he got there. It's scarier and much more villainous without it.

Second, that backstory seems fairly obvious, no? A loner who lost his job and been abused and struggling comic? These aren't very creative choices. Why not like make him like a successful sitcom actor who somehow flips out? Or what if he was the Robert DeNiro tv show host instead? The Joker is a wild character and his backstory, if needed, should be insane too.

The idea of him being a failed stand up comedian who finally breaks comes from a graphic novel The Killing Joke. I don't think it was ever his officially canon origin but its certainly the most popular origin for the last 30 years. 

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15 minutes ago, grudlian. said:

The idea of him being a failed stand up comedian who finally breaks comes from a graphic novel The Killing Joke. I don't think it was ever his officially canon origin but its certainly the most popular origin for the last 30 years. 

That makes sense then about where it came from. But it just doesn't seem all that shocking or surprising anymore to me.

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Yeah the comedian bit was the closest thing to a nod to a prior history for the character, though in that case he was married and expecting a kid. He didn’t have any mental issues prior to falling into the toxic chemicals but after seeing his wife had been killed by the guys who hired him he fully snapped.

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I can FULLY UNDERSTAND everybody's disappointment with this movie.

My personal thoughts on "Joker" - good, but not great. HOWEVER....that's mostly on the producers and NOT Phillips.

I know, deep down, this thing is a cinematic masterpiece. Todd Phillips said this movie was originally 2 1/2 hours, but had
to have it trimmed WAY down for the theatrical run - which included a shit ton of important, vital content to the story.

It's ok if one is fine with the theatrical cut, but one must also show respect for those that found issues
On that note, I bring to everyone a petition to release the original DX of "Joker"

Go to change.org to sign my petition, regardless of whether you are 100% satisfied with the film or not.
Release The Original 2 1/2 Hour Director's Cut Of "Joker (2019)"

ANY AND ALL artistic freedom/integrity must be preserved and held sacred.

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On 10/7/2019 at 9:23 AM, sycasey 2.0 said:

I had no real expectations, given that from the first trailer this looked like such an odd thing, so I can't really say I was "disappointed."

But it does feel like it only gets halfway there to being a great movie. Aesthetically it's great, really sets a nice atmosphere and looks good, nothing like what you'd expect from the guy who made The Hangover and Old School. Phoenix gives a great performance, no doubt. But I'm not sure Todd Phillips has anything to say about society or humanity other than "some people are really fucked up, man." Superficially it's similar to classic Scorsese like Taxi Driver or The King of Comedy, but it misses the details and subtleties that make those movies great. Biggest example is that there are basically no other characters besides Arthur. There are other PEOPLE in the movie, but none of them feel like fully fleshed characters. Scorsese uses those other characters as counterpoint, to demonstrate how depraved the protagonist really is. This movie is just in Arthur's head all the time, which is tiresome after a while.

Those other movies also have a gradual build, taking their time to get to the point of no return for their characters. It's less than an hour in and Arthur has already gone off the deep end in this one. There's not much more to get out of him as a character after that, and the development of his character seems to be the whole focus here, to the exclusion of all else.

And yeah, the origin story stuff seems half-baked.

  Reveal hidden contents

So if his adoptive mother was in the asylum and there are records of her abusing him and everything, why did she get to keep him? Why doesn't he remember any of this? No social workers came to the house and talked about it? If they were "off the grid," then why did he have a public psychiatrist assigned to him in the first place?

What time period is this taking place in? Seems like it's the 70s or early 80s, but then De Niro's talk show host gets great-looking footage of Arthur's routine in a comedy dive bar. Who bothered to record that? Someone brought a giant camcorder into the club and no one stopped them? A major network show would consider this worthy of an on-air bit, some amateur comedian no one's ever heard of?

I dunno, still worth seeing I guess? It's certainly trying something.

Just wanted to say I agreed with your observations 100%. I also was curious to see it and had no set expectations, so I cant say I was disappointed either. 

I also questioned how the mom could hold onto him without social services getting involved. I think the film could make a really compelling depiction for the main character’s natural psychological devolution into Joker, and I really like that idea, but the film just gets too busy with its various plot threads. As a result, crucial details like this kinda get the short end.

—spoiler ahead

 

 

 

Would a longer cut help? Possibly, but the film started losing my interest when it hinted that he and Bruce Wayne were half-brothers. I REALLY wanted the film to head into this fucked-up territory, but it chickened out. it didn’t ruin the film for me, but it was one of the plot lines that ended up diluting the movie. I also don’t think a longer run time would help flesh out the supporting characters—it simply doesn’t seem to be what the film cares about. I’d still watch it—like I said, there are things in the movie that I liked, it just doesn’t cohere as a whole, and I doubt that can be fixed in 30 minutes.

out of curiosity, I got You Were Never Really Here (another Joaquin movie) that’s supposed to be a similar type of character/performance. I’ve heard it’s really good, but haven’t watched it yet. If there’s any notable comparisons, I’ll write about it.

 

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first of all... Joker does not doesn’t belong in a forum about bad movies. 

second of all, what I’ve seen here is nitpicking to an immense degree. Who honestly cares about the logistics of Arthur’s mother’s custody in a corrupt, crime riddled, declining Gotham? One that discontinues government programs for former mental patients?

A movie not taking the narrative path you envision doesn’t make it a misfire or cowardly in its choices. It distinguishes it as it’s own unique work, and not the movie you pictured in your head before you saw it. Why is subverting calculated expectations a negative thing? 

This movie emulated the style of 70s character studies, a genre in which the main character’s viewpoint is of utmost importance to the audience. It is intentional that side characters are not fleshed out and that their viewpoint is not overtly presented to the audience.  Joker also plays around with distorted reality, furthering the need for the audience to see the entire film from Arthur’s perspective. 

If there is one criticism I agree with, it’s that Arthur snaps at the halfway point in the movie without enough build up. this is done for pacing reasons that I don’t think hurt the film too much overall. 

it’s a great movie you guys, and an utterly outstanding “comic book” movie. Outside of expecting a film to be an outright instant masterpiece, all of the criticisms here seem overreaching. stuff that would not be brought up for any comic book film, or any above average movie in general. 

 

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Not every movie brought up in this forum is “bad,” and I didn’t think this one was bad. That’s why I didn’t put it in the “bad movie recommendations.”  I simply didn’t think it succeeded in doing everything it tried to do.

My favorite era of films are 1970s films and a A LOT of them that are great—The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Blue Collar, Nashville, etc.—do have strong supporting characters. This one has a few characters that are more developed than others, but none are as nuanced as the 70s era films.

I’m glad you loved it—who am I to tell you that you can’t—but I think all the opinions here are valid because they’re peoples’ OPINIONS. We don’t all have to agree and be in lock-step. I don’t expect everyone to love every film that I do. I went into this film as open-minded as I could and parts of it worked for me, other parts didn’t. If you’re not open to hearing what other people have to say, you don’t have to read it.

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6 hours ago, Señor Gravy Stains said:

A movie not taking the narrative path you envision doesn’t make it a misfire or cowardly in its choices. It distinguishes it as it’s own unique work, and not the movie you pictured in your head before you saw it. Why is subverting calculated expectations a negative thing? 

Again—following up what I said previously—I had no real expectations for this movie, so I didn’t “envision” anything for it. The movie developed the potential for a half-brother subplot all on its own and it really got me excited because I felt like the film truly could subvert the Batman story and build into an even more interesting direction (and at this point in the movie, I was still on-board) by painting Arthur Wayne as corrupt.  Nothing about my expectations for this subplot were “calculated” because I truly did not expect the film to go there. The fact that it didn’t end up going there—after a fair amount of build-up— felt like the filmmakers were ultimately afraid of fucking with the brand and so the movie doesn’t really subvert anything. 

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9 hours ago, Señor Gravy Stains said:

Why is subverting calculated expectations a negative thing? 

It didn't subvert anything though.

And I liked it

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On 10/21/2019 at 5:03 AM, GrahamS. said:

Again—following up what I said previously—I had no real expectations for this movie, so I didn’t “envision” anything for it. The movie developed the potential for a half-brother subplot all on its own and it really got me excited because I felt like the film truly could subvert the Batman story and build into an even more interesting direction (and at this point in the movie, I was still on-board) by painting Arthur Wayne as corrupt.  Nothing about my expectations for this subplot were “calculated” because I truly did not expect the film to go there. The fact that it didn’t end up going there—after a fair amount of build-up— felt like the filmmakers were ultimately afraid of fucking with the brand and so the movie doesn’t really subvert anything. 

I messed up when I said Arthur Wayne when I meant to say Thomas. Oops. I guess that just goes to show how appealing the idea of Joker being part of the Wayne family is to me :).

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Holy fucking shit: I watched You Were Never Really Here, in which Joaquin plays an even more fucked-up character who is the hero of this movie. This film and Joker make for a compelling compare and contrast of two different types of psychos, but You Were is several times more disturbing to watch. The story is intentionally fragmented, the main character had PTSD and is suicidal (which is harrowingly illustrated several times), and the film puts you entirely, uncomfortably in his head.  It is also a revenge thriller that intentionally makes the brutality as un-thrilling  as possible. 

Joaquin is brilliant and I thought the film was really powerful but it’s not for everyone.

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On 10/20/2019 at 10:36 PM, Señor Gravy Stains said:

This movie emulated the style of 70s character studies, a genre in which the main character’s viewpoint is of utmost importance to the audience. It is intentional that side characters are not fleshed out and that their viewpoint is not overtly presented to the audience.  Joker also plays around with distorted reality, furthering the need for the audience to see the entire film from Arthur’s perspective. 

But my point is that the 70s movies it's trying to emulate DID flesh out the supporting characters. Taxi Driver plays with distorted reality too, but not at the expense of the other characters. I still have a strong sense of who they are in a way I don't in Joker.

On 10/20/2019 at 10:36 PM, Señor Gravy Stains said:

If there is one criticism I agree with, it’s that Arthur snaps at the halfway point in the movie without enough build up. this is done for pacing reasons that I don’t think hurt the film too much overall. 

I would argue that having the "snap" come so early actually does hurt the pacing. If it's a slow-burn approach then actually do that and don't get nervous and feel like you have to get to the "money shot" right away. If it's well-made enough then the audience will come along -- again, see Taxi Driver.

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