8. There Are Only Two, Legitimately Great Things About The Film
Consult a plethora of reviews about Joker, and you'll stumble across a few recurring themes. One, that Phoenix's performance is incredible; and two, that the film is shot beautifully. In both cases I'm inclined to agree with consensus, and while I'm also fully aware of the fact that Joker, as a character study, can be sustained by Phoenix's performance, it's not enough to overlook its flaws.
To be clear, Phoenix absolutely deserves all the plaudits. His portrayal of Arthur is haunting and genuine, and he benefits from being afforded the opportunity to tell a completely new version of the character before and during his decline. He makes the role his own by honing in on the physical aspects of the character, and there are times where you feel as though mania is simply trying to tear its way through the actor's skin.
But that's not enough to simply call Joker a stunning accomplishment. For all that Phoenix gives the part his all, the overarching plot never sustains his talents. The stage never feels adequately set for him to embark on his downfall, and it means the audience never develops an intimate understanding of Arthur. Maybe that's the point, but even if ambiguity speaks to this particular version of the character, there's no momentum to his demise either. Instead, Phoenix maintains a persistent intensity that, while unquestionably brilliant, makes discerning Arthur's downfall all the more perplexing.
For most, Phoenix will be enough to cement Joker as one of the films of the year - and that's fair enough. But there are flaws almost everywhere else.