The discourse surrounding Joker has been happening for so long, you’d be forgiven if you thought the movie had already come out by this point. Long before the movie was named the (surprising) recipient of the Venice Film Festival’s coveted Golden Lion (which in years’ past has gone to films such as Short Cuts, Brokeback Mountain and most recently, Roma) there was anxiety about its impact in a world being ravaged by armed, white men. Director, producer and co-writer Todd Phillips (The Hangover) has spoken at length about why the seriousness of Joker appealed to him (Comedy was too PC for him, boo hoo!); this isn’t just another comic book origin story, Phillips wants you to know that this is a serious, gritty character drama. Then there were the stories about just how far Joaquin Phoenix went down the rabbit hole in preparation for his role as Gotham’s Clown Prince have earned him the status of frontrunner in this year’s very crowded Best Actor race. It has all been exhausting to say the least. But now the movie is finally here to be judged on its merits, for what it is and not the controversy and “what ifs.” The most offensive thing about Joker is how bland, boring and toothless it is.
Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell have made three feature films together since 2012. Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle and now JOY. It’s easy to see why, as O. Russell has directed her to 2 Oscar nominations, and one win. He also gives her the space to breathe, something she doesn’t receive in The Hunger Games films. While I’ve not always agreed with Lawrence’s casting in these roles (she’s way too young) she has delivered some compelling moments, even if it never amounts to a whole performance.
JOY, however, is O. Russell’s messiest film thus far, with Lawrence’s casting sticking out like a sore thumb.