“A gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society” is IMDB’s excellent byline description of this deep exploration of disintegrating (disintegrated?) mental health.
It’s described as taking place in the ‘Scorseseverse’ by some critics, in that Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck appears to be an homage to many of Scorsese’s monumental 70’s characters. And what’s more, De Niro has a supporting role that shows he still can deliver the goods when not just taking a part for the money.
So I’ve already used the M word and in this Academy Award winning performance (of that there is no doubt) Joaquim Phoenix’s monumental performance will put the Academy back on track after their laughable decision to recognise Rami Malek for impersonating Freddie Mercury last year.
I detest impersonation movies on the whole, but this is no impersonation, this is a character crafted out of magic. It’s not a superhero movie in the slightest and all the better for it. It’s simply a character study of great depth and extreme nuance.
One thing I loved about this intense study of a disintegrating man is the extreme close ups that shows Phoenix in all his imperfections, his upper lip, his wonky teeth, his chewed finger nails, his nicotine stained fingers (possibly make-up). It’s glorious.
It is unquestionably a masterpiece, not just for Phoenix’s performance, but for every SINGLE aspect of cinema: music (White Room by Cream blasts out of the screen in the final apocalyptic act to tremendous effect – but it’s outstanding throughout), make-up (stunning), costume (stunning), cinematography (stunning – the dance on the steps and the aerial train track shot particularly blew me away), design (epic) and direction (Todd Phillips follows up his epic production, but not direction, of A Star Is Born remarkably It’s interesting looking at Todd Phillips’ Filmography though – a real mixed bag with much of it centred on comedy – The Hangover in particular.)
But you don’t need me to tell you how good this movie is – you don’t get a 9.1 rating on IMDB without reason.
See it and bathe in its mastery.