Joe Biglin’s review published on Letterboxd:
The age of shitposting is alive and well and the new jokerman font origin story is both better and more intentional than everyone is saying while also totally deplorable in how irresponsible of a film it is, once again for reasons not mentioned by the MSM, who of course I'm fighting the good fight against in the spirit of my man Arthur Fleck.
#1 - Empty signaling. I came into this film very confident of a few things. Whether or not Phillips was going to continue what he did by aping Scorsese a'la War Dogs (one of the worst of the decade), he was definitely going to appropriate the style of what we're calling Sundance "Indie" trash and Eurotrash art films. Colors, the subtle steadicam cinematography mixed with some actual clever compositions ("Clever" usually more than "clever." I wasn't nearly as bothered by the usual empty signaling of its humanistic depth, however, because of one indulgent tendency Phillips actually avoided: lack of plot. No, this film actually intends on teasing something out through scenario and character action, so I began to think... *what if?*...
In addition, Phoenix's performance is generally pretty subtle and funny. Was surprised by this more because the film uses miserable scenes to get us from point A to point B in Arthur's journey—namely, scenes of him getting beaten up, abandoned, piled on &made fun of. But then there are genuinely great moments, like the way he reacts when he drops a gun at a show for children. His awkward, bumbling mannerisms are at once endearing and typically show the inner naif exploited by the system.
But what if I told you that the film wants to create a distance between Fleck and his actions?
#2 - Personal responsibility. Taxi Driver this is not. That film studies a man slowly breaking and uses members from different classes of society to play against increasingly bizarre behavior. Joker begins with a broken man in a system becoming slowly more steeped in neoliberal thinking, Thomas Wayne being the emblem. Travis remains set on his goals. Arthur goes with the flow into his destruction. Travis is rewarded for his crimes stemming from his toxic masculinity, Arthur's reward is "feeling himself"—just in the most unhealthy way possible—by inciting mob violence, but strangely Joker doesn't want to address anything political beyond classism; intent to leave women and POC out of their identities' real-world contexts. See, Travis has an inner narration and he makes actions that change the course of the film. Schrader and Scorsese's world feels cold, careless, empty. Fleck's Gotham is cruel and his actions, once he finally takes them, meaningless; for a variety of reasons. There are his schizophrenic hallucinations that fool us the audience, or the consistent gaslighting and abuse that leads him to smothering his mother—only to hit you with the big question mark when he discovers that Wayne signed a photo of her later. Fleck specifically has a condition where his status continually worsens for the sake of the plot, and *you know what?* We're here for it. Because it's fun to do bad things.
So in this world where everyone is pushing the idea of personal responsibility a man engineered to be on welfare is continually shut out of care he needs until he breaks. Really this isn't the incel movie everyone has been talking about. Obviously any fucking idiot with half a brain can see Todd Phillips writing "the silent majority" all over the frame;
so one last time, let's ask
what does this film make interesting?
When Fleck comes onto DiNiro's show as his new assumed "Joker" identity, he has no answers. He is the opposite of the confident, swaggering psychopath of Ledger; he can't form a coherent thought about much of anything but there is no uncertainty in his anger. This in itself is so many things; scary, unsettling, and yet the film is finally *fun* by now. As Arthur does more harm to the world, finally able to express himself and feel control, he dances around. He makes legitimately clever comments, sometimes by accident. You almost begin to see what he could have been in a better life. Seeing him in the same exact position as before—that is, with the same social worker who doesn't quite care, but on a far lower wrung of society because of government cut affecting the both of them—is another subtly crushing image. But that is what most of this film is; good idea, bad idea, baffling idea, okay execution.