I’d been putting off Joker until it was rentable, so that was last night’s viewing.
I had a few moments where I enjoyed it as a piece of motion picture craft. Like, literally “for the medium of pictures that move I admire the composition of this shot or the motion of the camera in this scene or the shades and tones of the whole thing.”
I think much younger me, ca. my early 20s would have liked it much more because I would have read its unrelenting, dismal, grim, seedy, grinding spiral of squalor as authentic. Last night I read it as monotonous.
A few other things about it:
I agree with a sentiment I saw go by on Twitter that Joker as a character is best without an origin story. The Joker that walks into the frame in The Dark Knight is enough, and the running “how did your face get like that” bit underscores the point. It reminded me of a paper I wrote a while back about the nature of villainy in spy movies: Spy novels of the ‘50s and ‘60s are ideologically motivated; the corresponding movies are usually recast as struggles of a precarious global order against chaos and non-state actors.
Joaquin Phoenix was generally good. There were only a few moments where I felt like I was being grabbed by the face and pointed at ACTING, and those were more directorial choices.
I can’t connect this Joker with any Joker that comes after. If someone felt like doing a Gotham
ComicCinematic Universe that played this thread out, I guess I’d be curious about how they’d get us from this Joker to the Joker we know. I don’t understand how this Joker would survive long enough to become that Joker. I’d still wait for them to come out as rentals.
I deleted a paragraph about the gender politics of the movie, because I think the script blinked on Thomas Wayne and arranged the scales in such a way that Penny Fleck is Arthur’s bigger problem. As I sit here typing, I think it’s probably wrong to try to turn this into a just-so story about Todd Phillips’ misogyny; I also think it’s wrong to let him off the hook for how he chose to arrange the pieces.