An Oscar may be in the cards for our leading man, but was it everything it was hyped up to be?

CERTIFICATE: 15

DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips

STARRING: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro

SCREENPLAY: Todd Phillips and Scott Silver and Others

GENRE: Crime/Drama

RUNTIME: 122 Mins

★★★★ 4/5

This may genuinely be the hardest review I have had to write so far this year.  I feel there are two very separate areas that need to be judged in this case:

  1. The Performances of the Actors
  2. The plot and overall appeal of the film.

And my thoughts on these two areas could not be more different.

For those few people left on the planet that have not seen or heard of this film, the general breakdown is as follows.  Arthur Fleck is an unsuccessful comedian in Gotham City, struggling with serious mental illness.  He is mistreated by those around him and disregarded by those who are supposed to help him.  Slowly we witness Arthurs slow decent into madness and the events that lead to the birth of one of Comic Books most iconic villains, The Joker.

It is no secret by now that it is widely believed Joaquin Phoenix deserves an Oscar nod for his spectacular performance in this film. His portrayal of Arthur Fleck is truly heart wrenching.  And it says a lot that a performance can make you feel sorry for and empathise with, a character of this kind.  When I first saw the trailer for this film I was concerned that the character of the Joker would lack his trademark mania and erratic behaviour, as to me the previews of the film played this down.  And towards the beginning of the film I was starting to think I may have been right. But the further into the film we et, the more we see the character emerging and my fears were quickly put to rights.  The role played here by Phoenix, is so important to so many people because of it’s portrayal of mental illness, and the stigma attached to it, that in some places it is almost a social commentary on the way society treats people with severe mental illnesses, and that sub-plot cannot and should not be ignored throughout the film.  Whereas not all cases are this severe, and will hardly everend as this story does, it does show the harm that can befall people if they don’t get the right help. 

So the acting in this film is truly a masterpiece and no one here is going to dispute that, but what about the film itself?  Well, for me that was a different story entirely.

For me, origin stories always seem to lack something. They are just about introducing the world and the character to the audience, so there is always a very slow build, and the films are always very character driven.  And that is no different here.  For me the first two thirds of this film are very slow and lack any driven plot.  Once the ball really gets rolling in the last forty-five minutes  or so the pacing is excellent, but that first hour and half can go a little slow.

One major criticism I have been seeing is that the films tone is very Dark and Disturbing, and while I went into the film expecting that from reading a lot of reviews, I myself was surprised at how unsettling the film was. I spent a lot of the film feeling very uncomfortable, and while I know that is a desired effect of the film, it does mean that for me it wasn’t necessarily an enjoyable experience.  

Still, despite these short comings it cannot be denied that ‘Joker’ is a cinematic masterpiece, it’s just a masterpiece that I am happy to only view once.

This film has divided both Critics and Audiences alike, some people calling it the best film they have ever seen and other walking out before the film is even finished.  I would love to know what you thought about it.

Join the Discussion. ‘Joker’ is out in UK Cinemas Now!

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