Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as the criminal clown who turns into the Joker, has received glowing reviews from critics. The story of one of the darkest villains from DC history was screened at the Venice Film Festival.
Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker shows the dark transformation of a loner named Arthur Fleck into the criminal mastermind everyone knows him as today.
Joker holds a 86 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The critical consensus is, “Joker gives its infamous central character a chillingly plausible origin story that serves as a brilliant showcase for its star and a dark evolution for comics-inspired cinema.”
The review from Time Out read, “This is a truly nightmarish vision of late-era capitalism arguably the best social horror film since Get Out and Joaquin Phoenix is magnetic in it.”
Variety wrote that the Joker “manages the nimble feat of telling the Joker’s story as if it were unprecedented.” “Many have asked, and with good reason: Do we need another Joker movie? Yet what we do need badly are comic-book films that have a verité gravitas, that unfold in the real world, so that there’s something more dramatic at stake than whether the film in question is going to rack up a billion-and-a-half dollars worldwide. Joker manages the nimble feat of telling the Joker’s origin story as if it were unprecedented. We feel a tingle when Bruce Wayne comes into the picture; he’s there less as a force than an omen. And we feel a deeply deranged thrill when Arthur, having come out the other side of his rage, emerges wearing smeary make-up, green hair, an orange vest and a rust-colored suit.”
Empire said that it was “a sad, chaotic, slow-burn study”. “But your empathy, sympathy even, isn’t guaranteed, and it begins to dissolve as Arthur somehow moves even further to the edges. This is, we mustn’t forget, the story of how a villain was made. But what writer/director Todd Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver (8 Mile, The Fighter) have written into life is the Joker as a character. What they and the film is interested in is the mental, moral, emotional, physical make-up of the man who became the Joker.”
The Guardian wrote, “Having brazenly plundered the films of Scorsese, Phillips fashions stolen ingredients into something new, so that what began as a gleeful cosplay session turns progressively more dangerous and somehow more relevant, too.”
The Forbes review wrote that ‘everyone is going to be stunned by what Phoenix accomplishes’. “Joaquin Phoenix gives a tour de force performance, fearless and stunning in its emotional depth and physicality. It’s impossible to talk about this without referencing Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance from The Dark Knight, widely considered the definitive live-action portrayal of the Joker, so let’s talk about it. The fact is, everyone is going to be stunned by what Phoenix accomplishes, because it’s what many thought impossible a portrayal that matches and potentially exceeds that of The Dark Knight’s Clown Prince of Crime.”
However, not all the reviews were positive. The film was critiqued for glorifying the murderous protagonist and the shallowness of the political and social commentary.
The Time Magazine wrote, “Phillips may want us to think he’s giving us a movie all about the emptiness of our culture, but really, he’s just offering a prime example of it.”
The Wrap read, “If you strip the Joker and his nearly 80-year history as a cultural icon out of this film, as well as all the 1970s movie homages, there’s not a whole lot left except for Phoenix’s performance, and it’s the kind of turn that’s destined to be divisive.”