PAIN AND GLORY

PAIN AND GLORY

by Alan Yudman

How much pain must one endure to achieve glory? And when glory is bestowed does the universe demand pain to keep things in balance? These existential questions came to mind after I watched Pedro Almodóvar´s brilliant PAIN AND GLORY.

Antonio Banderas stars as a filmmaker named Salvador Mallo who had success back years earlier, but is now a broken shell. His body is fighting him. He’s had spinal fusion surgery. He’s in constant pain. He has other ailments that have forced him to become a recluse. As we learn more about Salvador, we also learn about his history growing up poor and at one point living in a cave with his mother (Penelope Cruz). He was a brilliant, talented child who tutored an illiterate man and taught him to read.

Almodóvar explores pain as it is channeled through Salvador. What caused his emotional pain includes a failed love affair at the time he was making his critically acclaimed movie and a falling out with the star of that movie. He begins his healing by trying to reconnect with that star for a festival screening. But instead of healing he becomes addicted to heroin. That actor (Asier Etxeandia) discovers a writing on Salvador’s computer about addiction. He initially refused to allow him to turn it into a one man show, but Salvador relents and that is when the real healing begins. He reunites with his former lover, a man who moved to Argentina, married and had a child. He begins to seek real treatment for his ailments and begins working again.

Banderas, Cruz and Etxeandia are wonderful. You can see the pain on Banderas’ face…. Feel it in your bones along with him. Cruz is warm and loving as his young mom. And Etxeandia is all passion and energy.  Three wonderful performances.

Every relationship in the film is troubled but ultimately touching and intimate. Almodóvar reveals pain and how it is resolved or forgiven. There are no easy answers… no short roads to redemption. But in the end Salvador finds his way back from his personal abyss. This exploration of the price one must have to pay and the work one must do to redeem oneself internally and externally will have you thinking and ultimately giving a virtual pat on the back to Salvador.

 

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD

A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOODby Alan Yudman

The story told in A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBOORHOOD certainly belies the title. It is a series of dark and stormy days that bring us to the point Lloyd Vogel’s life. Let’s just get this out of the way, this is not a film about Fred Rogers (Tom Hanks). This is about Lloyd (Matthew Rhys) an award-winning writer at Esquire magazine. He specializes in investigative journalism, uncovering those who are using their position to take unfair advantage. It fits Lloyd’s personality. He trusts no one. I’m not even sure he trusts his wife. Lloyd has been scarred by an absent father who left his family when his wife became terminally ill. That relationship peaks at Lloyd’s sister’s wedding. He and his father (Chris Cooper) get into a fight that leaves Lloyd with bruises on the outside to match those on his soul.

While he is dealing with all this Lloyd gets a new assignment from his editor… profile children’s television legend Fred Rogers for an issue the magazine is doing about heroes. Lloyd objects, but relents and travels to Pittsburgh to meet Mr. Rogers. It is a trip that will change Lloyd’s life and force him to really look at his relationships.

As I write this it’s been nearly a week since I saw this movie and I still don’t know what to make of it. It has received a lot of praise from critics. So, I ask myself if I am missing something. Because this seemed more style over substance. Lloyd’s journey from tormented soul to caring husband and father are unique in one way. It is motivated by one of the most beloved people in the world. But isn’t that what Mr. Rogers did for millions of children… motivate them to be better, more caring human beings? I suppose Fred Rogers doing this for an adult is something different. But the fact that Lloyd couldn’t see what a terrible person he was being until an outside person reveals it to him is an idea filmmakers have returned to over and over.

There are a few things that make this worth seeing. Above all else it is Rhys and Hanks. They play off each other marvelously. Rhys is constantly frustrated by Hanks relentless goodness. Hanks tones down his inherent people pleasing to show us the Mr. Rogers we all remember… a sly, good hearted person who didn’t preach but gave us tools to find the right path. The other actors are truly supporting in that they help fill in the characters of Lloyd and Fred. Marielle Heller’s direction is excellent. She copies the familiar Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood tool by using “manufactured” sets to locate the audience in places like New York and Pittsburgh. Sounds trite, but it works well. Also, the use of songs from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood is effective in helping frame Lloyd’s state of mind.

In one scene that is also in the trailer, Lloyd’s wife (Susan Kelechi Watson) beseeches Lloyd not to ruin her childhood by exposing Mr. Rogers as some type of monster. I don’t think that is possible. The cynic in me finds it hard to believe that anyone could be as good as Fred Rogers. I suppose I’ve been proven wrong, but maybe that doubt is coloring my opinion of A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD. I encourage you to see it and convince me it is better than I think. Hope you accept my challenge.

THE GOOD LIAR

THE GOOD LIAR

by Alan Yudman

A con movie? A thriller? A story about paying a price for lying? THE GOOD LIAR is all of that and more. The film stars two legendary actors, Ian McKellan and Helen Mirren as a widower and widow who meet-up online. McKellan is a con man who with his partner Jim Davis (Carson from DOWNTON ABBEY) keep multiple schemes in the air to make money relying on their wits. Mirren is a retired Oxford professor who lives alone, or sometimes with her grandson Stephen. She seems like a naïve, but lovely old lady who just wants a companion so she doesn’t have to spend her later years alone.

McKellan sees an opportunity to run an investment scam on her to steal her millions. The movie goes along on that storyline for quite a while. McKellan and Mirren become closer. He moves in with her after he’s hobbled by a balky knee. She also has some health problems… the occasional micro stroke. She’s frail and trusting and the perfect target. But is she?

The movie spends about an hour setting up that plot. Then the twists start coming. After the first one I felt, “ok that was a great reveal… how will he finish her off?” Then more twists… more than a pack of red vines. And in the end, you are gob smacked by what is happening on the screen.

It’s not that it’s that much of a surprise. Just pay attention to the way Mirren looks at McKellan as the movie goes along and you may realized something deeper is going on here. I would not want to be on the other end of Helen Mirren’s withering gaze. But the execution of all of this is superb. The script by Jeffrey Hatcher based on the book by Nicholas Searle, could have been a confusing mess. Maybe it is too simple, but being able to follow the twists is not a bad thing. Bill Condon’s direction is wonderful and Carter Burwell’s score is marvelous.

But the treat here is watching two great actors thrust and parry through the plot. McKellan can go from charming to devious to monstrous in the blink of an eye. Mirren hides her motives so well that it is quite the surprise when it all comes to the end. I really can’t go into too much detail for fear of spoiling everything, but THE GOOD LIAR is worth allowing into your brain for a couple of hours.

FORD V FERRARI

FORD V FERRARI

By Alan Yudman

I think I have a problem. Every time I see a movie where cars are driven fast, I leave the theater driving as if I was behind the wheel of a Formula 1 race car and I’m in Monte Carlo. No one tell the police. The truly talented get to live out those dreams. Those are the characters that populate the fast-moving FORD V FERRARI.

This is also a story of American exceptionalism, how the dream of being the best can be silenced for a time but can never truly be killed. It may be hard to believe that a millionaire industrialist like Henry Ford II can be an underdog. While his car company was a success, his desire to be better drove him toward racing. When he was insulted by Enzo Ferrari, that was all the motivation he needed to put his money into what many believed was a fool’s errand—trying to beat Ferrari’s legendary race team at Le Mans

FORD V FERRARI is also a story of American bootstrapping. Carroll Shelby was a legendary race driver who was forced to retire because of health issues. He turned his love of cars into Shelby American the custom car company that gave the world the Shelby Cobra, a light and powerful car that is way to fast for its own good. He teamed with rambunctious British driver Ken Miles to win several Sports Car Club of America races. Miles was a war hero who put his dreams aside for country and then for family.

These three men Ford, Shelby and Miles were snubbed and laughed at. No one thought they could do what they did. But through ingenuity, determination and talent they were able to pull off one of the greatest upsets in racing history. Compelling stuff for a film.

The performances are absolutely great. Matt Damon’s Carroll Shelby is the ultimate salesman and innovator with just a touch of melancholly. Christian Bale embodies Ken Miles’ personality… he doesn’t care who he offends when he expresses his opinion. Mainly because he knows he is right and that’s not bravado if you are. Tracy Letts is great as the arrogant Ford. Lee Iaccoca was the ultimate car salesman, an attitude Jon Bernthal captures perfectly In his performance.

The script is fairly straight forward. Jason Keller and John-Henry & Jez Butterworth don’t put many frills on this. There is drama and humor. What I know of the story, they seem to get right. The characterizations seem flawless. James Mangold’s direction is great. There is a lot of actual stunt driving. There doesn’t appear to be much CGI here. Bale and the others really sell the on the edge driving and how dangerous it is.

So this is a great movie, right? Well, I’d say it is very good. The driving sequences are extraordinarily well done. There is emotion but it fell a little flat for me. Maybe I knew too much about the story going in. But it didn’t get me pumped for the triumphant finish (I won’t comment on the coda for fear of spoiling it). There’s nothing wrong with a very good movie that is executed flawlessly. But I was hoping to have my heart race like a Ford GT40 at Le Mans, and I wound up feeling more like a Toyota Camry driving a few miles over the speed limit on the freeway.

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN

.MOTHERLESS BROOKLYNby Alan Yudman

What determines power? Is it how much money you make or how much influence you wield? That argument is the heart of MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN. But the soul is Roman Polanski’s CHINATOWN. Edward Norton’s passion project is to New York what Polanski’s movie is to Los Angeles.

MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN details how the building of New York City in the 1950’s was not based solely on some American dream philosophy. It was built on Robert Moses’ (wonderfully portrayed as Moses Randolph in the film my Alec Baldwin) quest for power based on influence and control and unapologetic racism. But that racism is belied by revelations about the parentage of one of the main characters. Even that relationship is revealed to be about exerting power.

Norton is a private detective named Lionel Essrog who is try8ing to find out who killed his boss Frank Minna (Bruce Willis). Lionel has Tourette’s syndrome which manifests itself as a kind of verbal riffing and mild tics. Lionel is somewhat affectionately called “freak show” by his fellow detectives, but he uses it to lower expectations because he is the most competent investigator in the firm. He has a perfect memory and while he is constantly apologizing for it, he knows it is his advantage.

Lionel’s investigation leads him to Laura Rose (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a lawyer employed by an organization trying to keep the corrupt New York government from displacing minorities from their homes so Randolph can build highways, bridges and tunnels.

Every relationship and discovery connects each character to the larger story. I never found myself asking, “why is this person important to the story?” That is saying something because there are intertwining storylines and plots. A lesser talent would have trouble keeping all these plates spinner, but Norton pulls it off. I find it kind of remarkable he wrote such a good screenplay, directed it and does such a wonderful job as Lionel. Norton does a great job slowly peeling the onion until we, along with Lionel, discover what is really going on here. Norton set the movie in the 1950’s so he could tell the story of the unseemly history of how New York was built.

The parallels to CHINATOWN are unmistakable. While the hidden story in that film is more demented, this one nods to a more familiar and pervasive racism which more audiences may recognize.

The acting is first rate. Mbatha-Raw is strong, yet vulnerable as Laura. Bobby Canavale is always good at playing the guy you know is going to betray someone. Michael Kenneth Williams plays a jazz trumpeter who identifies with Lionel’s broken brain because he sees himself in the same way. And speaking of Jazz, this film has an outstanding soundtrack that seamlessly combines known pieces with Daniel Pemberton’s score.

Norton’s commentary on power, how it corrupts everything it touches and how the powerful can be undone by their own faults and failings is right on topic for our current politics. And when a film can take a story set in a certain time and make it relevant to today’s reality, I view it as a monumental success

TERMINATOR: DARK FATE

terminator dark fate 1

by Alan Yudman

 

Can you believe there have been 6 Terminator movies? The original, plus 5 sequels. While the original remains a classic of science fiction and TERMINATOR 2: JUDGEMENT DAY is considered to be a great sequel (David Foster Wallace being the exception), all the other sequels were terrible. I sort of liked TERMINATOR: GENISYS at the time, but the film has not aged well. Frankly I was wrong. It is bad. A mess. But re-reading that review I stumbled across a truth I will repeat here. The Terminator franchise is nothing without Sarah Connor. So, hearing that she is here, and that Linda Hamilton is playing her… well my inner nerd was giddy.

 

And TERMINATOR: DARK FATE absolutely delivers the goods. James Cameron had a hand in this as producer and he gets a partial writing credit. That means the DNA of the franchise is not being ignored. Skynet is gone, but there is a new computer villain called Legion. As Sarah points out, humans never learn. Legion does what Skynet did, became sentient and tried to wipe out humanity. Here a new enhanced human named Grace (Mackenzie Davis) is sent back to protect the future by saving one person. That person is a young Mexican girl named Dani (Natalia Reyes). Her role is kept secret from her and the audience for a long time before it is explained and is a bit of a surprise.

 

There is a new Terminator, the Rev-9. It has the abilities of the T-1000 from Judgement Day with some noticeable improvements. It can “split” or “clone” itself in a battle. It can make complex machines like a gun and it can access computer systems and control them. Gabriel Luna does a great job bringing the same menace that Robert Patrick played so well in Judgement Day. Sarah hooks up with Grace and Dani just as they are about to be wiped out by the Terminator. Her appearance in the film left the crowd in my theater applauding and cheering. Director Tim Miller (Deadpool) completely nailed that shot. It is a textbook example of the “hero shot”.

 

The themes are the same. As Sarah says, “The future is not written. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” Grace, Sarah and Dani have to find the mysterious person who is alerting Sarah to the appearance of every new Terminator. That’s where they hit the road and finally find Arnold Schwarzenegger. He is great. He slips into this role as the T-800 with complete ease and it feels like he enjoys it. His part in the chase would reveal too many spoilers, so I’ll just leave it there.

 

The team has to kill the unkillable Terminator. There are a ton of wonderful set pieces. It just all worked on me so well. I loved diving back into this world and was more than satisfied with the results. Is this a perfect film? No. Are any of them? The point is to go and have 2 hours of fun in a world that most of us know. On that level this was a total win.

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME

by Alan Yudman

On my list of great disappointments of the past 30 years (and there are many) one is that Eddie Murphy has not worked more. Oh, he’s done stuff. Donkey in the Shrek movies. The Nutty Professor showed off his ability to create characters (better than Tyler Perry). Other middling comedies here and there. Dramas like Mr. Church, that no one remembers (at least I don’t). Murphy’s last role that seared into my brain was his Oscar nominated performance as James “Thunder” Early in DREAMGIRLS. That is a void in our lives because Murphy is so incredibly good and versatile. I was pleasantly reminded of how much I’ve missed Murphy while watching DOLEMITE IS MY NAME.

This is the story about entertainer Rudy Ray Moore. A struggling comic who discovered success when he created the character Dolemite… a raunchy, rhyming, pimp-dressing spectacle. He’d swagger onto the stage and deliver jokes in a rhythmic patter that is obviously a forbear of rap. That launched a string of successful comedy albums, but Moore wanted something bigger. He saw a market for his brand of comedy in movies. So, he decided to make a one that would sort of fall in the “blaxploitaion” genre, but really was its own thing.

DOLEMITE IS MY NAME is Moore’s story of success… how he created the character, then through sheer force of will got a movie made. Or maybe it was stubbornness. Genius has a tendency toward blind faith. He borrows against future record royalties. It’s an arrangement that would leave him beholden to his record company for eternity. He begged, borrowed, schemed and lied to get his movie made and it was more successful than anyone could have imagined.

The script by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewki is good. The Craig Brewer’s direction is solid because it’s barely noticeable. He knows Murphy is the star and sets up a few “hero” shots that show off his star’s incredible presence.

This would have been a decent movie without Eddie Murphy. With him, it’s great. Murphy is simply a fabulous actor. The projects he chooses may not show that often enough, but when he has material equal to his gift he is a big bright shining star. His timing is impeccable (not surprising considering he is a fabulous comedian). He knows when he needs to “put his weight behind it” (an instruction he gives a drummer and several others in the movie). He is empathetic. You cannot help but root for the man he has brought to life. In case I haven’t made it clear yet, I absolutely loved this performance.

Everyone fills their supporting roles well. Wesley Snipes turn as the exasperated actor/director D’Urville Martin is nothing but fun. One quibble is with Keegan-Michael Key, who plays the screenwriter Rudy employs to write the film. I got the distinct impression he was acting. That is not usual for Key. While FRIENDS FROM COLLEGE was meh, he was very good in it. So this was a little disappointing.

Biopics can be a mess. Racing from event to event, feeling more like a chronicle than an actual story. DOLEMITE IS MY NAME does not suffer from that problem at all. This is a compelling story about a unique character. It doesn’t dwell on unnecessary back story. You get just enough of Rudy’s history to get what he’s about. It’s great to see Eddie Murphy in a great, meaty role. I hope we see more of him in films like this. It’s certainly is an early holiday present.

JOJO RABBIT

by Alan Yudman

One of the most unique voices in Hollywood belongs to Taika Waititi. WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS, BOY, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE. And I believe he actually saved Marvel’s Thor franchise by making the Norse God comically self-serious and lightening the character’s tone. So a comedy about Nazi’s? Sure, why not? Well, apparently a lot of people said no. Waititi says it has taken years to get this made. But it so worth the wait.

JOJO RABBIT is a masterful look at one boy’s life in Berlin as World War II is coming to an end and the Nazi regime of Adolph Hitler is being torn down. JoJo (Roman Griffin Davis) is a 10-year-old wannabe Nazi. He says all the right things and wears the right clothes. But as one character points out in the film Jojo isn’t a Nazi, he dresses up in a funny uniform because he wants to be part of a club. His brain says Nazi.. his heart isn’t in it. Jojo lives alone with his mother (Scarlet Johansson). At the start of the film he is off to Nazi youth camp where it is proven that he is more frightened rabbit than killer wolf. He is wounded by a grenade and while at home recovering, he discovers his mother is hiding a young Jewish girl named Elsa (Thomasin McKenzie) in the walls of their house.

That is where the story really takes off. Jojo is faced with having to get to know a Jew and his only frame of reference is the stereotypes he has learned from Nazi propaganda. His mother tries to teach him that life is about more than Hitler’s hate filled rhetoric. You have to dance, listen to music and live. But it is through his relationship with Elsa that he learns the Nazi philosophy is complete bull.

Now that sounds pretty rote. The basic themes are certainly, well, basic. But it is way Waititi tells the story that makes this an absolutely wonderful journey. One reviewer said this is very silly until it isn’t. I think that is correct. Waititi’s humor is big and broad. The opening credit sequence is done to a German version of The Beatles “I Wanna Hold Your Hand” and is shot and edited of a piece with A HARD DAYS NIGHT. Madcap wouldn’t be a wrong description. Waititi himself plays Jojo’s imaginary friend Adolph… as in Hitler. His performance is pure comic genius. I couldn’t stop laughing at everything he says and does. But Adolph is the evil voice on Jojo’s shoulder. His worst angel. When Jojo wavers on his beliefs, Adolph drags him back.

That is just one of several marvelous performances. Sam Rockwell as a German Captain who is in charge of the Hitler Youth camp is just fantastic. His welcome speech should earn him a supporting actor nomination. Rebel Wilson is genius as female camp counselor. Johansson is touching in the role of Jojo’s mother. And Stephen Merchant as an SS officer is spectacular.

But the two people who have to carry this movie are Davis and McKenzie. And they are both absolutely stellar. McKenzie proved her bona fides in last year’s marvelous LEAVE NO TRACE. So she knows how to command a scene and a movie. The 11-year-old Davis is remarkable. He is in just about every scene and you cannot take your eyes off of him. It’s an incredible performance. Subtly human, funny and heartfelt at the right moments.

The film takes a sad and dark turn near the end, but it is not shocking or out of left field. It is one of several times while watching where you may pull out a handkerchief to dab your eyes. Speaking of eyes… Waititi uses the eaves of homes in a town square where “traitors” are hanged to simulate eyes. Like the town is watching the wrong that is being done. Shoes are also big in the movie. Johansson has very unique footwear that Waititi trains his camera on several times because it will be important later. Jojo hasn’t learned to tie his own shoes and while it could be bit of an eye roll, you know he’s come to the end of a journey because he ties someone else’s shoes. It all worked on me.

History has taught us Hitler and his followers were foolish, evil men. So, every Nazi in is portrayed as a fool. Is Waititi commenting on the growth of Neo Nazis in 2019? Maybe. They are dangerous fools. But JOJO RABBIT is about more than that. It’s about friendship, growth and a young boy learning what life is really all about.

PARASITE

by Alan Yudman

One of the big themes of the Democratic Presidential primary is the income or wealth gap. Candidates like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yank point out that it continues to grow wider. A few billionaires control an inordinate amount of wealth in the United States. It is an idea that started with the Occupy movement and has now gone mainstream. It has also been the subject of some art but none more successfully connects the issue with entertainment than Bong Joon Ho’s PARASITE.

A family living in Seoul is so poor their phones and internet get turned off. They resort to anything to make money, including folding pizza boxes for a nearby restaurant. The parents seem beaten down by failure. The son is too nice. The daughter always seems to be looking for an angle to play. They seem to be four lost souls looking for an opportunity to make easy money. Then it comes their way. A friend of the son gets him a tutoring job for a wealthy family even though he’s not really qualified. They counterfeit papers and he lies to get the job. The son sees it may be possible to bring in the rest of his family. He lies to get his sister in as an art tutor for the wealthy family’s younger son. They set up the family’s chauffeur to get him fired and move the father into that job. Then they scheme to get the family maid fired and create an opening for the mother. But that’s where it all goes sideways.

That’s about all I’m willing to reveal about the plot. Anything else would spoil the surprises that make this movie so special. Bong has told this story of those with less fighting against the establishment (see Snowpiercer). But this isn’t a bleak vision of a dystopian future. This is a plausible portrayal of a family struggling against the class structure. It’s not like they aren’t trying. They have had jobs that have gone away. They cannot catch a break. Failure begets failure. Society is structured to prevent them from becoming successful. Now before you think this is a sullen, depressing slog… it’s not. This is a very funny movie. Bong uses humor to create empathy with the central characters. The wealthy family is portrayed as pleasantly clueless about their place in the world. PARASITE is at times a raucous farce of a film. Kind of a Korean version of Charlie Chaplain.

The movie is subtitled. I feared the humor would be lost by having to read the jokes, but it works. The actors are fantastic. Bong’s script is smart, funny and moving. The cinematography is fabulous. The camera placement is everything and where Bong places the actors in those scenes is just brilliant.

But when it all goes to shit, it becomes disturbingly and surprisingly violent. The violence fits. You can see how the desperation escalates into a bloodbath. In the end, no one is really happy. Some aren’t even alive. Initially I believed the title PARASITE referred to the central family since they worm their way into the wealthy family’s lives. But after giving it some thought I believe income inequality is the PARASITE Bong is talking about. If you have a society built on a wage gap, it is a PARASITE festering that either needs to be eliminated or it will wind up killing things you love.

JOKER

joker

by Alan Yudman

JOKER is either the best movie ever made, or an overrated piece of crap. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. It is a film that starts dark and just keeps getting darker. It is unrelentingly bleak. Every time you believe that maybe, just maybe Arthur Fleck has found a way out from under his own mental illness, the world turns on him.

There are undeniable parallels to KING OF COMEDY. A struggling comedian becomes obsessed with a beloved pro. As the fandom turns to obsession the main character falls prey to his own psychosis. To further the parallel in King of Comedy Robert De Niro is the fan… in JOKER he is the target.

The commentary on society is undeniable. The mentally ill are ignored or given the least amount of attention possible. The wealthy present themselves as entitled jerks who don’t care a whit about most people. In interviews around the release of the movie Director Todd Phillips commented he no longer can make comedies because of “woke culture”, people are too easily offended. Explaining how silly that is seems beside the point. Phillips just can’t make the bro comedies (The Hangover movies for example) that he did when he was younger. Whatever Todd. But he seems to be taking a shot at all the wokeness. De Niro’s Murray Franklin makes fun of Arthur which sends him spiraling deeper into madness. A sort of, “see what happens when people become too offended, they go nuts!” Again, whatever Todd.

Joaquin Phoenix is unbelievable. As an actor he is willing to transform himself emotionally and physically, much like his co-star De Niro. He lost a ton of weight for this role. He is emaciated and gaunt. His physicality as an actor is something to behold. He just doesn’t “act” crazy, he moves crazy. Watching him run you think to yourself, “yup… dude is not well.” It’s such a wonderful performance that at points you really feel for Arthur even as he falls deeper into madness. Is what we are seeing real? Or are we so deep inside Arthur’s insanity that even the audience can’t even tell what is real or what is not. The audience is on board the crazy train right next to your main character. It’s a powerful and unique way to build a connection with your main character.

The music cues are either on point or eye rolling. I’ll leave that to you to decide but I didn’t even notice it. The visuals of the movie are mostly grey and dirty which adds to the bleakness. The only real color enters when Arthur fully embraces his transformation to Joker.

This is a depressing take on an origin story. Some have lumped it into the Superhero genre. While that is clearly what Phillips is counting on that connection to draw you in, it is not at all of a piece with a Marvel or DC film. This is a drama about someone losing their mind. It is powerful and disturbing. It took me weeks to come to terms with its themes and now that I have, I am all in. JOKER is definitely worth your time.