Todd Phillips’ “Joker” opened this weekend, and the Inside The Film Room staff is here to give you their rapid reactions to Joaquin Phoenix’s take on the Clown Prince of Crime.
Your Tweet-Length Review
Zach Goins: Not sure I liked “Joker” as much as I expected to, but that may just be because of how unsettled I feel. The Phoenix hype is justified — a terrifyingly brilliant performance. More character study than comic book, it’s a provocative and disturbingly human examination of empathy.
David Sobczak: “Joker” delivers a thoroughly compelling and frighteningly believable portrait of how someone could be pushed to become The Clown Prince of Crime, anchored completely by Joaquin Phoenix, who delivers one of the most mesmerizing and unsettling performances of the decade.
Josh Martin: “Joker” is pretty terrible: a structural and narrative mess saddled with a bunch of origin story mumbo jumbo, an obvious musical score, and some cringe-worthy digressions. Phoenix is fine, the movie is not.
ZG: I’d have to go with the scene where Arthur dances in the bathroom. It comes directly after his incident on the train (trying to be as vague as possible here) and it’s where you really start to see the transformation into Joker. Plus, it’s one of the few times the score’s overpowering strings worked for me.
DS: Arthur finally coming out to the world as Joker on Murray’s show. Joaquin is so electric, I was fairly certain the projector was going to explode when he started twirling on stage.
JM: A gruesome murder witnessed by the only truly likable character in the film: his reaction is one of the few moments of genuine empathy.
Most Memeable Moment
ZG: Not too many laugh out loud moments in a film as grim as this one, but I will say seeing Arthur smack into a glass door outside the hospital got me. Give me a gif of that for anytime something doesn’t go as planned.
DS: Dancing down the staircase. Come on now.
JM: Joker’s “society” rant on the Murray Franklin show.
ZG: I thought Zazie Beetz’s Sophie was going to be featured a lot more. I would have loved to see more emphasis on her and less focus on the Wayne family.
DS: The significance of the Waynes in the plot. I knew they would be referenced and Thomas would feature a good amount, but I was pleasantly surprised by how neatly they were woven into Arthur’s story.
JM: A certain subplot involving a famous comic book family…
What You Wanted More/Less Of
ZG: I know this is an origin story and everything, but I wish we could have seen more of Arthur in full fledged Joker mode. For a movie called “Joker,” it felt like 90 to 95 percent of it was Arthur.
DS: More of Arthur in his “final form.” He was so radically different as Joker in the last half hour compared to the rest of the movie, and his performance on the talk show was so electric. I easily could’ve gone for another 20 minutes of that.
JM: Beyond my desire for a completely different story structure, I wish there was significantly less origin story nonsense – I don’t care about Arthur’s parents, nor do I care about his tenuous connection to the Wayne family. A slower build to psychopathy + fewer DC references = better movie. Also: tone down the musical score, guys.
Who’s the Joker of All Time?
ZG: Still hands down Heath Ledger. Sorry, Joaquin. At least you beat out Jared Leto.
DS: Mark Hamill.
JM: Heath Ledger.
Final Grade (Out of 100)
ZG: 71 out of 100
DS: 85 out of 100
JM: 40 out of 100
Zach Goins is a member of the North Carolina Film Critics Association based in Raleigh, N.C. Zach co-founded Inside The Film Room in 2018 and serves as Editor-in-Chief of the website and co-host of the podcast. Zach also serves as a film critic for CLTure.org.