Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Joker (2019)

Image is property of DC Films and Warner Bros Pictures

Joker  – Film Review

By Aiden Mills

Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert DeNiro, Zazie Beetz, Brian Tyree Henry

Director: Todd Phillips 

Synopsis: Struggling comedian Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) finds himself rock bottom and ostracised from society until a series of violent incidents leads him to find a new purpose in life.

Review: When the news came out that DC and Warner Bros were making a standalone Joker film with Todd Phillips at the helm, the red flags started waving. Even when news that Scorsese was on-board as Producer and the phenomenal Joaquin Phoenix was cast as the infamous villain, doubts still lingered in the minds of DC fans. Since Heath Ledger’s much loved portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime, could anyone go some way to matching that iconic performance? Well, rest assured, they have.

Joker starts with struggling comedian Arthur Fleck looking at himself in the mirror and forcing himself to smile, a single tear rolling down his cheek. Hunched over, and with a body shape reminiscent of Christian Bale in The Machinist, we know from the very get go that this is a man on the outskirts of society, no more than a cockroach living in the shadows. A man metaphorically and literally beaten down by the world around him, before a series of violent events leads him to fall into a cocoon of insanity before emerging as the villain we all know and love dancing and prancing through the streets of Gotham City, a crazy butterfly. While this is for all intents and purposes an “origin story,” it is more of a character study as well as a test to the audience. Specifically, how far can this guy go before our empathy runs out?

The world Phillips builds is phenomenal. With the use of a moody and ominous soundtrack, a vibrant use of neon lighting and a gloomy filter, he manages to seamlessly blend Scorsese’s New York with Tim Burton’s Gotham- the perfect stomping ground for Phoenix’s Joker. The Gotham we see in Joker is one on the verge of eruption, unemployment and poverty is on the rise along with crime and corruption. Garbage litters the streets and to top it all off super rats are running wild. The people are angry and are out for justice and are quick to direct their anger at the rich one percent who run Gotham.  Arthur is a product of these hostile societies, a person on the brink who is ostracised and isolated from everyone around him and left alone with his negative thoughts. He idolises Talk Show Host, Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro) and sees him as the father figure he never had.

If a laugh could say a thousand words that would be Phoenix’s. At times it carries a great measure of pain and angst which is being bellowed out, at others, like a true psychopath. It is empty, hollow, and like the noise a hyena makes, almost a reflex. Phoenix is truly a behemoth to hold as he gives a breathtaking performance, one of which just holds your attention at every frame. In some ways this is an end to his “Lonely Man Trilogy” (Her, The Master) and perhaps his best iteration. Phoenix does a masterful job in making a complex character and creates a myriad of feelings from the audience.  To compare Phoenix to Ledger however would be a disservice to both actors, Arthur is a completely different Joker to the one in The Dark Knight and both give completely different powerhouse performances.

Recently this film has come under scrutiny for its use of violence and focus in on a traditional villain, but Phoenix says it best, the film cannot be accountable for the moralities of the people who watch it.  If it is championed by the “incels” and violent males as an anthem, we should look at the society who breeds these people as opposed to a film that condemns it. If the take away is that Arthur is the hero of this story, you would have completely missed the point of the film.

Joker seamlessly blends some of the classic films of the 70s/80s with comic culture in a truly breathtaking and emotionally challenging film. It’s a character study on a complex and troubled individual delivered by a beautifully nuanced performance from Phoenix. Joker puts its foot on your throat from the very start and doesn’t let go until the credits roll.

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Silver-Linings-Playbook-Poster
Image rights belong to The Weinstein Company

Silver Linings Playbook – Film Review

Cast: Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Jackie Weaver, Chris Tucker

Director: David O Russell

Synopsis: As a former mental institution patient moves back in with his parents and seeks to make amends and rebuild his life, he comes into contact with a woman who has also been battling her own problems.

Review: You would think that if you were about to sit down and watch a film about someone having emerged from a mental institution seeking to turn his fortunes around in life, then said film would struggle to find its feet and its voice as a comedy, with very few laughs. Well you couldn’t have been more wrong, because in the capable hands of screenwriter and director David O Russell, adapting from the novel of the same name by Matthew Quick, this romantic comedy packs plenty of heart, drama and unsurprisingly comedy into its 2 hour run time, and it does all this extremely effectively.

Pat Solitano (Cooper) is a man who has just come out of a mental institution after seeing his marriage hit the rocks and fall apart. But after his release, he is looking up, and feeling confident of making amends and moving forward. This is until he meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) a woman who is going through her own set of problems. When she comes onto the scene, things begin to take an interesting turn as these two begin to realise that they have a lot more in common than they care to think.

After the success that was his 2010 film, The Fighter, a film with a tremendously strong cast, Russell again manages to put together  another very strong cast all of whom excel in their roles. You have Robert DeNiro and Jacki Weaver as Pat’s wacky parents who are doing their best to help Pat rebuild his life, with a surprisingly funny and effective performance from Chris Tucker too. Yet, it is the performances of our two leaders in Cooper and Lawrence that truly steal the show. Their chemistry together is electric to watch and they have more than a few very memorable scenes together, with one scene in a diner standing out by far among many terrific scenes.

The film became the first film since 1981 to secure nominations in all four acting categories, and was the first since 2004’s Million Dollar Baby to be nominated for the Big Five Oscars. Lawrence was the only one to secure a trophy, and to be fair, she is the true star of the show. She manages to blend crazy antics and real heart and emotion into her performance. All of the performances are of such a very high standard, you could almost think that you weren’t actually watching a film, but real life instead. In the same year that she shot to stardom with The Hunger Games, Lawrence proved to the world that she is a force to be reckoned with, something that she is still demonstrating today. While Cooper didn’t take home the statue, his work was equally electrifying, and arguably to this day ranks as a career best performance. If it had not been for a sublime performance from Daniel Day Lewis in Lincoln, he might have won a statue himself.

The screenplay by Russell is equally terrific. Of course there are some dark moments that goes without saying, but there are plenty of funny and dramatic moments as well, and they all work. He manages to fuse all of these elements into the story very successfully and the story is very compelling to watch. There are highs but there are plenty of very low lows and you feel for all of the characters, as they are extremely well developed. But as the film makes a lot of effort to point out, every cloud has a silver lining, and in the case of this film, that silver lining is despite the somewhat dark subject matter, it produced one hell of a good movie that’s extremely entertaining to watch, and definitely ranks as one of Russell’s best movies.

Acted to perfection, with star performances from Cooper and especially Lawrence, with a terrific screenplay that packs heart and comedy aplenty.

a

Posted in 2010-2019, Film Review

Joy (2015)

joy
Image is property of  Fox 2000 Pictures, Davis Entertainment Company, Annapurna Pictures, TSG Entertainment and 20th Century Fox

Joy – Film Review

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro, Bradley Cooper, Edgar Ramirez, Diane Ladd

Director: David O Russell

Synopsis: An account of the life of Joy Mangano, and her journey as an inventor and entrepreneur, with her main invention, the Miracle Mop.

Review: To become a very successful entrepreneur, a person would need a lot of charisma, determination and a relentless desire to succeed, as well as having an obvious passion for the product or products they are hoping to bring to the market. But if you happen to have a somewhat dysfunctional family life, and find things going wrong here there and everywhere, it would almost certainly make the challenges even harder than they already would be. These are the challenges that face Joy as she aims to revolutionise the market with her invention the Miracle Mop.

A mother who refuses to get off her bed and does nothing but watch TV, ex-husband living in the basement, deadbeat dad, as well as a mother to two children, Joy has just about everything she could going against her, but through all of this, she does possess that relentlessness, that desire, and that belief in her product, and it ensures that David O Russell’s third team up with Jennifer Lawrence as the titular character is an interesting watch, but it is not all plain sailing for Joy as she bids to get her product to market, things go wrong, a lot of the time. Yet that belief and will to succeed persists her to keep going in spite of the adversity she does go through is extremely uplifting.

As she has been in her last two links up with Russell, Jennifer Lawrence is once again excellent in the main role. She possess the aforementioned charisma and relentlessness in abundance, and it’s her performance that drives the plot forward, because except for a kind of comical performance from Robert DeNiro, the majority rest of the cast are just not interesting or engaging enough for the audience to really care about. There is one exception to this, that of Bradley Cooper’s character who does a massive favour for Joy, but even then his screen time is fairly limited. This is once again the Jennifer Lawrence show, and she clearly thrives under the direction of David O Russell. It’s by no means her strongest performance under Russell’s tutelage but it ensured another Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

Yet it does not have the emotional punch that the likes of The Fighter or Silver Linings Playbook had, or the brilliant ensemble cast that American Hustle boasted, with that awesome humour. The film takes its time to really get things going in the beginning, the film doesn’t quite know where it really wants to go, and is a little bit messy when it comes to its script and direction. Is it a happy film, or is it a sad film? In reality it’s probably a bit of both. Once it finds its spark, however it runs with it, and by the end there is some satisfying closure. Yet the build up in getting there was frustratingly slow. Although the film’s title is clearly referring to the main character and not the emotion, there’s not a lot of joyfulness to be found here.

A strong lead performance by Lawrence, but the film is bogged down by a lack of connection for the rest of the cast, as well as a real inconsistency in terms of the film’s tone and direction. 

b