Gang, I had the unfortunate experience of going to see “Joker” Sunday afternoon with my oldest son. At the end, he enjoyed the movie, gave it an above average rating, and was happy with the experience. I, though very happy to be able to go to the movies with my son, was not near as excited about the movie as he was.
A little background. My family has mental health issues sprinkled throughout. We all handle the issues in different ways. One uncle, a genius, snapped, lived at home his whole life, except for the 20+ years he just up and left for, then returned like nothing happened. We’ve had a suicide. We had a cousin snap, and shoot a few coworkers. (for the record, she is getting out soon and needs a place to stay (I’m looking at you Kentucky)) The rest of us are unprofessionally self diagnosed, and take care of it in our own way.
Myself, as Sara Kay can attest to, or pretty much anyone else I’ve spent enough time with, fall into funks. Odd things trigger them, some last longer than others, but you’d be stunned to hear, I am NOT a happy person. I am melancholic, have my ups and down, and over the years, have found various ways to keep myself on the positive side of the median. Mainly exercise, I try and avoid soda (pop in the Midwest), because when I quit, I spiral, keep my blood sugar even (I’m diabetic, when its low, so is my mood), and keep my mind busy (art, blog, maybe a new podcast).
Which then brings us to “Joker”. Going into this movie, I was coming out of a spiral down. I have been super depressed (see soda/pop withdrawal), really had no interest in seeing it from the trailers (depressing), but all my friends reviews, plus the beautiful Sara Kay’s ringing endorsement, plus my son wanted to see it, I decided to go and see it, then schedule the gym after, so I knew one positive thing would happen, and hopefully two if I was lucky.
I have seen the trailers, and the movie looked dark, gloomy, and really dug into the psyche of the character. My friends all think that Joaquin Phoenix should just be handed the Oscar (Leonardo DiCaprio should win it for my money). It is being bandied about that Todd Phillips created a masterpiece.
I’m calling bullshit.
Todd Phillips made a movie about a man with a mental illness. He did a good job. The man had a traumatic childhood, a traumatic head injury, and a total nut job for a mom. That’s a formula for mental illness. And he spent some time in the asylum, was on a cocktail of meds, and lived with a mom who doesn’t leave the apartment, and suffers her own issues, he’s a bundle of stress.
This manifests in a condition where he laughs during stressful situations. He carries a card, explaining it, because he is stricken by fits of laughter every time he is in a negative situation, where there is lots of stress. Now, Overlord John says that he loved the laugh, that it was the best, and he is wrong. Every time he did his half assed laugh, it grated my nerves. If you are going to wrongly call a character “Joker”, you need a Joker like laugh. It just came across as forced, and annoying, and was absolutely the most unJoker like laugh in the universe.
The movie starts with him getting mugged by a gang of teenagers, him getting beat with the sign he’s holding (and has to pay for losing it), and a coworker offering him a gun for protection, which he takes. Probably not the best decision. He takes to carrying the gun, to the point he’s entertaining children at a hospital, and it slips out of his pants, and falls. This leads to him getting fired. Then the lady he meets each week, his counselor, tells him that the funding has been cut, so he won’t be seeing her any more, and he won’t have access to meds, because that funding is cut too.
Through all this, he’s taking care of his mom, obviously not eating because he’s giving Christian Bale a run for the money with his Machinist body. Super skinny, almost sick looking, my hat is off to him for that. I’m sure between the meds, and mental state, eating is not a priority, and it shows. He’s so skinny, you want to mail him a sandwich. He continuously makes sure she is eating, but you don’t really see him feeding himself.
His mom Penny Fleck (Frances Conroy) has it in her head that Thomas Wayne will help them, because she used to work for him. It’s later revealed why she was let go. To be honest, I was a little sad they let the angle go, that it would have been a cool twist for the future, though in reality, it was a cool twist for about 15 minutes.
I’m not going to go on with the story, because I don’t like spoiling movies. I am going to talk a bit about what worked for me in the movie, and what didn’t.
Lets start with the positives.
- His mom came up with a really cool twist to Arthur’s relationship with the Wayne’s, which they nipped in the bud. Leave that hanging a bit, or handle it a bit better, and it changes the movie.
- The ambience of the movie was really quite good. The feel you got was from a Scorsese, or dare I say it, Sidney Lumet, where you capture just how dirty the city was. Granted, a garbage strike was going on, but even then, you never got the feeling that anything was clean, even the hospitals.
- The portrayal of him barely holding onto his sanity, to wear he eventually slides into murder, yet compartmentalizes it, was well written. It wasn’t rushed, carried some other symptoms with it, which ended with a decent ending.
- The flashbacks were clever. Once they became unraveled, it gave you a feeling of Fight Club. On a side note, can Zazie Beetz be any prettier? Just a beauty, and I got to meet her, get her autograph, and she could not have been nicer during a long day for her.
Now, I will list the negatives
- Why does Robert Deniro keep getting cast in comedy roles? The older he gets, he’s sucking in drama roles, let alone comedy ones. I wish he’d just go away and retire.
- The movie was sooooo slow paced. Everything was long and drawn out, I swear they added an extra half hour just be taking their sweet old time, or spent it on his stupid laugh
- His stupid laugh. By far the worst Joker laugh left. It reminded me of the laugh from someone who has to come up with an annoying laugh, but their heart isn’t into it. I know he said he worked on it for weeks, but apparently that wasn’t long enough
- Depressing. The Joker is the “clown prince of crime”, this joker’s biggest crime was making the depressed people watching it suicidal. (okay, his biggest crime was murder, but this is my article) I know that the comics are putting the Joker on a darker path, the movies are following the comics, but honestly, the dark joker sucks in the comics too.
- Casting. I like Zazie Beetz, I liked Frances Conroy, I am ambivalent around Joaquin Phoenix, Robert Deniro was bad, Brett Cullen was bad as Thomas Wayne, and the little girl who played Beetz’ daughter sucked. That’s right, I’m calling out a 5 year old on her shit acting.
- Story. Honestly, if they had not tied it into a DC Universe, and did a movie where Joe Schmo was the lead, it would have been a better movie. But they didn’t, and though there were some good parts, it was more disappointing than previous DC titles. As a character, he’s top 3 to me for Batman villains, but after 20 minutes, I was hoping he got killed off in the end (Spoiler: he did not)
The movie gets an A+ in its depiction of mental illness. I even like that he wants to try stand up, because every comedian says that the best ones are the ones who are most messed up.
The movie gets an F for comic book universe. Todd Phillips said that they weren’t going by the books. Then why even include the character? Make a mental health movie.
I know it’s supposed to be stand alone, but my fear is this abortion of a character becomes canon. In today’s society, people want change just for change. People don’t care about tradition. Movies like these ruin the characters for the traditionalists (GET OFF MY LAWN!)
The acting gets a C+. Phoenix was good, his physical transformation was amazing, his portrayal of pain was pretty good, but the awful laugh that most the time filled uncomfortable pauses with uncomfortable laughter. The mom was good, Beetz was good, his clown posse (see what I did there), were average. The little girl was bad, Deniro sucked in a role anyone could do, and nobody really blew me away.
The backgrounds looked great. They really set the mood, you really got a feeling of being despondent when looking at the city, and you never feel clean.
As a whole, I just disliked this movie on many levels. Chances are, I’ll probably never watch it again. If I had to choose between watching this again, and “shudder” “The Talented Mr. Ripley”, I’d probably go with that turd, and I have never uttered those words before these last few days.
I get why people like it, I really do. It is just not my type of movie. I found it depressing, boring, and too slow. I have seen almost every aspect of this movie more than a few times, and a lot of it comes across as cliché.
Maybe I came in with the wrong mindset. Maybe my mood set it up to fail. That being said, I am giving it a surprising C-. The things they did good won’t allow me to give it an F, but this is definitely on my list of movies that I will probably never watch again.
And a big fuck you to all the people who dress as this shitty version of the Joker, and I hope you have an allergic reaction to the make up.
J “Caesar Romero Rules” R