The latest screen version of the Joker hits theaters this weekend, this time with Joaquin Phoenix playing the role of Batman’s most notorious villain. And while Phoenix’s performance as the insane clown might be the deepest portrayal of the character, “Joker” doesn’t give us much more to stay busy with.
Arthur Fleck is a mentally ill street clown that can’t catch a break, who dreams of a life as a famous stand up comedian. His kindness is interpreted and is indeed a weakness that allows him to be taken advantage of by everyone he meets and he also has to take care of his mom who is just as helpless as he is. When he’s finally pushed over the edge, he realizes that his most violent self is the kind of person he’s always wanted to be.
The real highlight here in Phoenix, who’s performance is as advertised, very compelling and troubled. The problem is that Director Todd Phillips is making his audience watch Phoenix act disturbed for long periods at a time and that makes “Joker” feel like a drawn out one man show for most of the movie. An underwhelming one man show.
The pacing is a slog and when the excitement does arrive it’s almost like it’s only there to jolt us awake instead of making us even more invested in the story. Robert DeNiro delivers a strong supporting performance as a talk show host, but he’s not featured enough for us to really appreciate him.
I can say that this is a great looking Gotham City and some of the visuals are pretty good. While this is a comic book movie, there is a fair share of the Batman mythology here but not enough to take the spotlight off of our title character.
But sadly, it’s not enough here. There was a large buzz concerning the social commentary of this film (story HERE), but the truth is that it’s not really good enough to draw up the kind of passion for that type of discussion.
They say a great hero needs a great villain. “Joker” proves it works the other way around as well.
Running time: 2hrs 2 minutes