Joker (2019) has exhausted me - and bizarrely, that may actually be a good thing.
In the months leading up to the release of Todd Phillips' film, fans were split down the middle on how to view it. To some, WB's latest film was a dangerous exercise, with many feeling as though the studio's decision to spotlight Batman's arch-nemesis in an origin story threatened to cast the character under a more sympathetic guise. A just concern, given the Joker's baggage, but there was clear promise to the production.
A Joker movie modelled on the works of Martin Scorsese - in this case Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy - boasts potential. And for all that Bat-Fans opined that attempts to narrativise the Joker's beginning contradict the clown's chaotic appeal, various creators have been optioning origin stories for the character for decades, dating back to the Golden Age of comics in the 1940s. Joker, then, isn't so much anomalous as it is a logical next step - one that had potential to match or even exceed previous cinematic depictions of the character.
Unfortunately, Joker does neither. While there are clear positives to draw from (most of which come down to Joaquin Phoenix's trail-blazing performance as the titular character, and the superb cinematography by Lawrence Sher), the story of Arthur Fleck's downfall is ill conceived, derivative, and in some ways even vapid.
And it's bitterly disappointing, too. Joker squanders opportunities to address meaningful conversations only to reiterate tired clichés, honour Scorsese, and proceed to the next chapter. It turns what could've been a truly exemplary production into something that's only occasionally brilliant, and instead permanently frustrating.
MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD!