This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Zack Lindsay’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
Good movie, great performance by Phoenix. I can say I was absolutely never bored in this movie. There is a lot of... cruelty, which I imagine will be tough for some to stomach. It has an interesting plot, albeit with mostly predictable 'twists'. I think
I felt they sacrificed a decent amount of time, (that could have been invested in scenes to flesh out the city) on periodically giving Joaquin Phoenix 5 minutes to 'act a lot'. I felt like the character was strongest and most interesting in how he interacts with his mother/other residents of the world, as well as exploring the working-class of Gotham. There are certain scenes that will stick in your mind for a while, especially the last scene in his apartment.
This is probably a slightly better movie than I give it credit for. If you really enjoy actors acting, I can see how this would be a favourite for the year. For me, a lot of the beats were a little too expected. I'm not the first person to say this, but Todd Phillips was definitely wearing a Scorsese mask, which isn't bad but I just felt he didn't do quite enough to distinguish it. That said, it's an effective modernization of a similar story, so I'll give it credit for that.
Last note: I rolled my eyes heavily when the parents were shot at the end. I really feel we didn't need that whole scene, just have the clown guy follow them and then cut back to the Joker. We get it. We know what happens. I actually enjoyed how they worked Batman lore in super lightly and thought it was working pretty well until that scene. Especially the last scene of Bruce Wayne with his parents made me gaze skywards in frustration for a moment.
EDIT: Seeing people talk about the little person 'gag', I have to say I never really saw it as a gag about him, although given Phillips personality I might have misread that. Nobody in my theater laughed when he couldn't reach the door, which I appreciated but did find surprising. That scene was tense, to me it wasn't really played for comedy at all. I actually found that with the earlier joke from his workmate, it tended to highlight the casual cruelty of that worker more than make the little person the butt of the joke, but obviously I'm not the person to determine whether that's a shitty portrayal or not.