Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of JOKER Starring Joaquin Phoenix?

Review Roundup: What Did Critics Think of JOKER Starring Joaquin Phoenix?

Director Todd Phillips "Joker" centers around the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone fictional story not seen before on the big screen. Phillips' exploration of Arthur Fleck, who is indelibly portrayed by Joaquin Phoenix, is of a man struggling to find his way in Gotham's fractured society. A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night...but finds the joke always seems to be on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of escalating events in this gritty character study.

The film stars Phoenix alongside Oscar winner Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Marc Maron, Bill Camp, Glenn Fleshler, Shea Whigham, Brett Cullen, Douglas Hodge and Josh Pais. Joker will be released in theaters nationwide October 4, 2019.

Find out what the critics thought of Joker below!


David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter:

This is Phoenix's film, and he inhabits it with an insanity by turns pitiful and fearsome in an out-there performance that's no laughing matter. Not to discredit the imaginative vision of the writer-director, his co-scripter and invaluable tech and design teams, but Phoenix is the prime force that makes Joker such a distinctively edgy entry in the Hollywood comics industrial complex.

Owen Gleiberman, Variety:

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.

Stephanie Zacharek, Time:

Joker - which was written by Phillips and Scott Silver - doesn't have a plot; it's more like a bunch of reaction GIFs strung together. When Arthur gets fired from his clown job, he struts by the time-clock, deadpans, "Oh no, I forgot to punch out" and then, wait for it, socks it so hard it dangles from the wall. Make a note of the moment, because you'll be seeing it a lot in your Twitter and Facebook feeds. The movie's cracks - and it's practically all cracks - are stuffed with phony philosophy. Joker is dark only in a stupidly adolescent way, but it wants us to think it's imparting subtle political or cultural wisdom. Just before one of his more violent tirades, Arthur muses, "Everybody just screams at each other. Nobody's civil anymore." Who doesn't feel that way in our terrible modern times? But Arthur's observation is one of those truisms that's so true it just slides off the wall, a message that both the left and the right can get behind and use for their own aims. It means nothing.

David Ehrlich, IndieWire:

But Phillips, stuck between reinventing the superhero movie from the ground up and throwing a cheap disguise on the same dumb origin story we've already seen 1,000 times, needs his Joker to be both the light and the dark, the yin and yang, the only sane man in a world gone mad. He needs to have his cake, and to smear it all over his face in a big red smile too. The result is an immaculately crafted piece of mass entertainment that wants to be all things to all people, less a Rorschach test than a cinematic equivalent of Schrödinger's Cat that leaves us feeling like the movie, and the current state of studio filmmaking itself, might actually be dead and alive at the same time.

Jim Vejvoda, IGN:

Joker isn't just an awesome comic book movie, it's an awesome movie, period. It offers no easy answers to the unsettling questions it raises about a cruel society in decline. Joaquin Phoenix's fully committed performance and Todd Phillips' masterful albeit loose reinvention of the DC source material make Joker a film that should leave comic book fans and non-fans alike disturbed and moved in all the right ways.

Mark Hughes, Forbes:

Joker is a phenomenal film, destined to be pitted against Ledger's The Dark Knight performance for the title of definitive on-screen portrayal of the character. So fabulous is this version of the Joker, it is hard to imagine the upcoming Batman rebooted franchise offering yet another new version any time soon - which is why I hope Phoenix can be persuaded to reprise the role and somehow cross over into Matt Reeves' Batman movies in the next few years. If this is indeed the one and only film featuring Phoenix's Joker, though, we should be grateful to have it. Joker is one of the true masterpieces of the superhero cinema, and one of 2019's greatest achievements.

Eric Eisenberg, CinemaBlend:

Joker is bound to be the subject of controversy upon its release, but it's a controversy that it invites by leaving a great deal open for interpretation. Everybody is going to have their own moment where they view Arthur going one step past "the line." Everybody is going to have their own take on what's real, and what's fantasy. Everybody is going to have their own particular political read. And then all of those opinions are going to flip when the movie is screened a second time. You'll definitely feel like you'll need a shower after seeing it, but once you've dried off and changed clothes, you'll want to do nothing else but parse and dissect it.

Richard Lawson, Vanity Fair:

None of these questions would be as urgent and unsettling were it not for Phoenix's wholly committed performance. I've not always gotten along with Phoenix's mannered, muscle-strained approach to his craft, but here he makes a compelling case for going full-tilt. He somehow doesn't condescend to Arthur's condition, even if the movie around him sometimes does. There's a softness cutting through the affect, a sorrow of soul that gives Joker a pale, tragic glow.

Tim Grierson, Screen Daily:

Phoenix never lets us forget that a monster will soon emerge, but he's such a haunting figure that we lament when that transformation occurs. And although the actor skilfully illuminates Arthur's pre-Joker disintegration, he also proves to be a pretty terrific Joker during the film's final stretches. Superhero fans will inevitably have their favourite version of this unforgettable villain, but it's probably not too controversial to propose that Phoenix's take is the most human - and, as a result, the most tragic.

Nicholas Barber, BBC:

For what it's worth, Joker is superior to the aforementioned Suicide Squad and Venom. Its flawless recreation of an earlier decade is a remarkable feat of impersonation. And I would dearly love it if Phoenix revisited the character in a sequel. But the idea that Joker is significantly more mature and intelligent than previous superhero (or supervillain) films? You must be joking.

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