Todd Phillips’ The Joker (2019) is a tedious, derivative manifesto for the “woe is me” white American male.  “I haven’t been happy one minute of my entire f—ing life,” says Arthur Fleck () and that sentiment is all too contagious while sitting through this self-pitying exercise of hackneyed seventh grade psychology. There’s more fun to be had here twirling one’s straw while waiting for the paint-by-number soundtrack accompaniment. Do a countdown while checking off “Send in the Clowns,”  “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” “That’s Life,” and Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll, Part 2” (its inclusion is a blatant, adolescent attempt to be provocative, given Giltter’s history). At least you’ll stay awake, if your straw is strong enough to endure all that twirling.

Still from Joker (2019)Another way to enhance what little entertainment that can be squeezed out of this lesson in masochism is to locate the the slivers of other films embedded in it: King of Comedy, Taxi Driver (cue the Robert De Niro cameo) ‘s Modern Times, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, The French Connection, and ‘s Batman, to name a random few (throw in at least one reference to ‘s “Dark Knight” comics as well).

For all its derivativeness, The Joker is yet another comic book based movie that’s embarrassed of its comic book origins. Angst-ridden fanboys, who haven’t seen a movie that’s not comic book-based in a decade or more, will hardly care. They’ll heap a ton of praise (and money) on it, proclaiming it profound, with an Oscar worthy performance from Phoenix, which will validate their own basement profundity.

It seems to be set in the 1980s (i.e. the Mark of Zorro marquee has been changed to Zorro, the Gay Blade) and it is essentially plotless. Fleck works for a clown agency, understandably gets fired for not being funny, rages against swamp-entitled self-righteous public figure Thomas Wayne (hint, hint), has mommy issues, sees conspiracies afoot (mostly involving Wayne) and descends into … whatever. End of story. It takes 90 muddled minutes (!) for Fleck to get into the makeup—but the makeup is rather a pronounced point of the Joker, a bit like the suit is a pronounced point of the superhero.

Phoenix’s may be the worst  portrayal of the character to date. Cesar Romero, (who’s looking better with each new portrayal), and each brought a sense of glee to the role, albeit a  maniacal one. Not so with Phoenix. He’s a tiresome gray, and when he does finally go black, he does not enjoy a moment of it.

The Joker is certainly bound to have a huge opening, but is it worthy of the controversy its generating? It deserves neither. Nor does it deserve to be remembered, celebrated, or mistaken for art, or cinema, for that matter. The Joker is merely a tasteless nothingburger.


  1. Your review is dripping with contempt–for a film you couldn’t even get the title right with–not even so much hate for the film which is crap to you because you had your Taxi Driver, so anything on remotely similar themes is garbage, but more your hate is for an animaginary audience of people you hate, comprised of that most dreaded of creatures: the struggling white male, more heinous even than its cousin, the successful white male. Why this particular racial misandry, who knows, other than its popular and the only way you can be a bigot and get cheered on instead of fired. You can’t even be bothered to objectively reflect on why there may be som zeitgeist in the film or note that it’s simple existence has generated so much cultural conversation, or that the oh-so-righteous left feels so threatened by it that they’ve been trying to raze it since long before it came out. The worst thing about your review is it is cheap pablum, regurgitated nonsense requiring no thought or nuance.

    Well, your fired, I’m unsubscribing and won’t be back. I’m not a basement dweller, I don’t read comics, I have a family. And I relate to the disenfranchisement and despondency that is purported to be in the film. And I relate to a growing resentment at constantly, relentlessly being a shorthand for evil or pathetic, a scapegoat, or just the perpetually open season target. Your review, if it can even be called that, is so drowned in fabricated hate and outrage while saying so little about the film.

    I hope a lot of people find your tasteless misandry and pathological identity politics disguised as virtue just as repugnant and drop your offensive hackneyed site as well.

    Hope your little tirade was worth it.

  2. I mean, it’s more than understandable to dislike a popular or blockbuster film (goodness knows I frequently do), but I don’t see why it’s necessary to be so contemptuous toward people who do enjoy it. There’s a very real possibility that many people who do enjoy the film have experienced genuine hardships or feel legitimately unhappy or depressed. A review that dismisses them all as having a “woe is me” attitude could be a serious gut-punch to them.

  3. Joker is not even close to being as bad or as good as its bipolar audience has suggested. It’s a damn fine Taxi Driver imitation that just happened to use a comic book villain as a protagonist (frankly a brilliant concept). Arthur Fleck is more sinister than Travis Bickle, though. Joaquin Phoenix will never be understood because he doesn’t occupy the same world as the rest of Hollywood, he simply acts the way he thinks he should. Oh and come on, calling this movie artless is way more “controversial” than releasing a straight-faced character study for the comic-loving masses. Unless of course you intended for your review to be meta, in which case my hat is off to you.

  4. Obviously Robert Kehl is being an idiot, but dismissing male depression is itself reinforcing a culture of unfeeling masculinity.

    1. Precisely. There’s a difference between claiming that white men are oppressed for being white men, and acknowledging that depression can affect anyone, even privileged people, and that dismissing it as “self-pity” is harmful no matter who that attitude is being directed to.

  5. “Todd Phillips’ The Joker (2019) is a tedious, derivative manifesto for the ‘woe is me’ white American male.”

    Stopped reading right there. Once again, Eaker proves himself to be one of the most pompous, self-absorbed, condescending, obnoxious, meagerly-talented writers on this site.

    Fire him, 366. Fire him.

  6. I will always remember Joker as a surrealist art piece. I think Eaker may just have something against white men. If you didn’t notice many of the protestors in the movie were not white. The Joker wasn’t political but citizens of Gotham City used a key moment and seized on it. They reminded me some like antifa, if anything, but not “just white men.” That’s weird man. That is just a weird take away. Where on earth did you get that? Did you see the same movie?

  7. Well, this is indeed a fairly pathetic “review” that reads more like a twitter meltdown, devoid of any *personal* stance and consisting of parroting the trite points about the media-constructed reality which itself is a number of trite points of the same levels of inauthenticity.

    The reviewer is too far gone down the rabbit hole of conformist oversocialization.

    A single phrase “Joker is shit” (which it is) would have been a better review than this psychiatric anamnesis. Thinly veiled misanthropy galore.

  8. Hey Al are you gonna be in Portland soon at House of Shadows? Can’t wait to meet you dude!

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