First ‘Joker’ Reactions: Joaquin Phoenix’s Performance Gets Raves, Awards Buzz Heats Up

     August 31, 2019


The first reactions to Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Todd Phillips, are here. Joker made its official debut at the 2019 Venice Film Festival on Saturday morning local time. There has been plenty of curiosity about what the final product of this movie based on the infamous comic book villain would look like.

The film follows Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), a failing comedian and man haunted by his own inner demons, who is just trying to bring some happiness into the world. As Arthur ekes out a life in Gotham City caring for his ailing mother, Penny Fleck (Frances Conroy), and developing a connection to single mom Sophie Dumond (Zazie Beetz), his dreams of being a comedian begin to spiral out of control after he is targeted by popular late-night TV show host Murray Franklin (Robert DeNiro). Despite not strictly adhering to the rules of a comic book movie or adapting a story from one of the many comics arcs involving DC Comics’ Clown Prince of Crime (admittedly, there is inspiration but no direct lifts), Joker does attempt to tell an origin story about one man’s transformation into a menacing villain terrorizing a city.


Image via Warner Bros.

All of these intriguing threads were touched upon in the final Joker trailer, released just days before the film’s premiere. Although the trailer was slightly more expansive on all of the chaotic energy in Phillips’ rendering of Arthur’s transformation into a truly unsettling villain, it was tough to know what the final product would look like and how it would be received. Now, this first wave of reactions from critics and festival-goers will give the rest of us a better idea of how to receive Joker.

The first reactions from those who attended the debut screening at the Venice Film Festival peg Joker as a winner. Plenty of praise has been sent Phoenix’s way as critics highlight his complete commitment to the role and the amount of detail that has apparently been put into making Arthur as fully realized as possible. There is also lots of positive attention being given to Phillips and the production team for creating a wholly satisfying film, with caps tipped towards the effectively dark and disturbing tone and the color palette used as part of the overall effective cinematography as means to tell this grim story.

Joker arrives in theaters on October 4, 2019. For more on Joker, check out some of our previous coverage below:

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