Monday, 25 November 2019

Review: Joker (second-pass)

Joker (second-pass)
Cert: 15 / 122 mins / Dir. Todd Phillips / Trailer

Well then, it turns out a second-pass of Todd Phillips' Joker didn't bring me a great deal more insight than the first, although that's not to say it was any less enjoyable. Not being a DC-kid, any Easter-eggs which slipped under the radar last time continued to do so, with my focus landing more on Joaquin Phoenix's magnetic performance in the central role.

The overall film itself is great but make no mistake, Phoenix is far and away the best thing in it. The bottom line is that Joker would be nowhere near as intricate-yet-powerful with any other contemporary actor in the role. At this point we'd expect little else from Phoenix, but because so much of this is Arthur Fleck discovering then shaping the character he wants to present to the world, we get to see more of Phoenix-the-actor; channeling some of his own off-screen craft and homework (well, as much as he wants us to see, of course). While I probably don't think it's the 'best' performance he's given, I believe this will be the one which sticks in people's minds, not least due to the mainstream appeal of the movie.


After the subway murders and Arthur's first standup gig (to which, other than the outrage of being mocked by Murray Franklin, it's difficult to read his own reaction), our protagonist suddenly looks his best in the whole movie. He's standing up straight, he has confidence. And while Arthur hasn't quite found his purpose in life, he suddenly knows where to look. That soon begins to unravel of course, but at least it's doing so at a rate of Fleck's causing (although still not his actual control). In many another movie this uplift would be spelled out in small words, here it's just one facet of everything that's going on. The psychopath's life is still falling apart, he just cares less about that.

And there are a myriad of smaller moments, buried under the shrieking descent into panic. When Arthur is told he's fired and headbutts the phone booth, the splintering glass doesn't cut his head because of the clown's bald-cap he's wearing. This is the subconscious moment when Arthur realises he can protect himself from harm, be insulated from his own intuitive violence, by wearing an outfit that others will see as a disguise (because although it conceals the public-identity of Arthur Fleck, it is in actuality the closest he gets to becoming his true self).


What I enjoyed most about this is that it's a single snapshot of an already fragmented canon. It's not the origin story of The Joker, it's an origin story of this Joker. There's a beginning, a middle and an end which is also a beginning. And that's beautiful. Which is a polite way of saying that we don't need a sequel. Which a polite way of saying that I don't want a sequel. But DC and Warner Bros are there to make money (obviously), and we play the cards we're dealt. But nothing which comes later can spoil this particular iteration of the Joker. Not least because Phillips has already tried that with the Glitter Band.

Just as Logan is the highlight of 20th Century Fox's X-Men franchise because it's not a superhero movie, so Joker is to DC/Warner's pantheon. Maybe take the hint and bow out before we get a DC-equivalent of Dark Phoenix?

No, I don't think they will either...

So, what sort of thing is it similar to?
The King Of Comedy and You Were Never Really Here.

Is it worth paying cinema-prices to see?
It is.

Is it worth hunting out on DVD, Blu-ray or streaming, though?
It is.

Is this the best work of the cast or director?
It's 'on the list', certainly.

Will we disagree about this film in a pub?
More 'discuss in an animated fashion', I think.

Is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard.

Yeah but what's the Star Wars connection?
Level 2: Robert De Niro is in this, and he was in Little Fockers with Laura 'Holdo' Dern.
(That's right Bob, I'm not going to let you forget all the shite comedies you've done over the last decade)

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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