Joaquin Phoenix's Joker - based on one of DC Comics’ darkest villains - was recently screened at the Venice Film Festival and received an 8-minute standing ovation, followed by some spectacular reviews by the critics. The Warner Bros. film, directed by Todd Phillips (known for The Hangover movies), follows the story of a failed standup comedian and loner, Arthur Fleck, and his dark transformation into a criminal clown, in the fictional city of Gotham. The movie, made with a relatively small budget of $55 million, has been described by the makers as an "exploration of a man disregarded by society [that] is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale."
Here is a roundup of some of the reviews the film and its lead actor have received so far:
Forbes - Mark Hughes called it “one of the best movies of 2019” and predicted that “Joker only needs roughly $190+/- million in worldwide receipts to reach black ink. And it won't have any trouble racing far past that figure.”
Empire - Terri White gave her verdict, “Bold, devastating and utterly beautiful, Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix have not just reimagined one of the most iconic villains in cinema history, but reimagined the comic book movie itself.”
Comicbook.com - Brandon Davis said it was “an insane masterpiece” and different from “all comic book movies before it”. He added, “During this slow burn audiences will wonder where the movie could possibly be going but patience will be rewarding. As the movie and its titular character descend into madness simultaneously, the dark, twisted thriller takes off and never looks book.”
Time Out - Philip De Semlyen wrote, "This is a truly nightmarish vision of late-era capitalism arguably the best social horror film since Get Out and Joaquin Phoenix is magnetic in it."
The Guardian - Xan Brooks said, “Having brazenly plundered the films of Scorsese, Phillips fashions stolen ingredients into something new, so that what began as a gleeful cosplay session turns progressively more dangerous – and somehow more relevant, too.”
Joaquin’s performance has also received some fantastic reviews.
Hollywood Reporter - The reviewer said that “a never-better Joaquin Phoenix paints on the famed maniacal smile with his own blood at one memorable climactic moment of messianic rebirth” and noted that the most noteworthy thing about “the lead actor's sensational performance is the pathos he brings to a pathetically disenfranchised character.”
Deadline - Pete Hammond wrote, “Phoenix is all in and then some, a performance so dazzling risky and original you might as well start engraving his name on the Oscar right now.”
Variety - Owen Gleiberman called Joaquin’s performance “astonishing” and that he is “playing a geek with an unhinged mind, yet he’s so controlled that he’s mesmerizing. He stays true to the desperate logic of Arthur’s unhappiness.”
Joker, however, also got a few negative reviews. Stephanie Zacharek, reviewing it for the Time magazine, was not impressed by Joaquin’s performance as the laughing psychopath and said that the movie “doesn’t have a plot; it’s more like a bunch of reaction GIFs strung together.” However, the thriller drama -- which also stars Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Marc Maron, Bill Camp, Glenn Fleshler, Shea Whigham, Brett Cullen, Douglas Hodge and Josh Pais in important roles -- has received an 86 percent rating on the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with the critical consensus calling it “a chillingly plausible origin story that serves as a brilliant showcase for its star and a dark evolution for comics-inspired cinema." The movie has an R rating and will hit the screens worldwide on 4th October 2019.