Why so happy?
Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) works as a rent-a-clown and has a mental condition that causes him to burst into laughter he cannot control. He has never known a day in his life where he was happy. After impulsively committing a murder, Fleck finds himself the new face of an uprising within Gotham City.
You all know the discourse surrounding this movie by now. Someone else who doesn't have "rambling" in their blog title probably said it better elsewhere so I'm not going to get into that too much. I was prepared for a lot of different feelings in this movie. One I didn't anticipate though was boredom.
Joker is a slug of a movie. Its nihilistic point of view drags from one scene to the next and even when the film does something interesting and you think "This is a nice place to end" it just keeps going. Todd Phillips, whose comedies I didn't hate. In fact, I liked a decent amount of them is incompetent as a dramatic director. There isn't an an original bone in this films' body. He attempts to be Scorcese but the problem is, he doesn't seem to understand Fleck. Fleck has a few interesting characteristics on paper, but Phillips doesn't seem to know how to handle them on screen. The statement they are trying to make on mental illness is rendered disingenuous when Fleck makes his big monologue. It felt like a throwaway buzzword when we hit that point in the film. The film also glorifies the Joker so blatantly that I'm surprised the director even insisted otherwise in the first place. He's literally worshiped, though the film isn't nearly as violent as I expected it to be. But not understanding Fleck brings me to my next point.
I don't believe Fleck could become the "Clown Prince of Crime" that we know in the comics. Sure, he doesn't have to be, but the only coherent thing he does in this entire film is his big ending monologue which felt like it was coming from a different Joaquin Phoenix character. - and speaking of Phoenix, he's awful in this. He's essentially doing his "I'm Still Here" shtick where he's overacting and hamming it up. He never once loses himself in the character like he normally does. I know this is a weird hill to be on with everyone praising his performance, but I've been a fan of Phoenix for years. This is bad. He's been so much better.
Now that you've listened to be complain, the film does have some redeeming qualities. The score is beautiful. Possibly one of the most memorable ones of the year. I really loved it. I did enjoy the few short scenes of Bruce Wayne as well, but that reminds me of my initial concern before anyone knew this movie was going to turn into incel-mania*. Sometimes villains are only interesting when the hero is involved. The Joker's appeal to me was always the mystery surrounding him. Joker needs Batman. Without him we get, well...this.
Memorable Quote: "Is there someone I can call for you? Is your mother home." - Sophie (Zazie Beetz)
*And before you come at me in the comments, I don't think everyone that likes this movie is an incel. I use that term broadly because that's been a major talking point. I can see why this is appealing to some. With a better director and script, it probably could've appealed to me too.