Phoenix absolutely kills it as delusional, paranoid, psychotic Joker, but film falls short by depicting his actions as a direct result of environment and turns Joker into a monster even the film itself can't understand.
“JOKER” puts me in a peculiar position – from whole Batman/Gotham story this movie is just amazing! World building is immense, events fit overall storyline, cameos are great, Joker’s really crazy, Phoenix is phenomenal, directing appropriately avant garde, pacing engaging. I’d just love to see the sequel. But when I look at it as a standalone film I quickly realize how messed up it actually is. Because in essence it tells the story of how an insane person with deep manias and paranoia gets complete cuckoo and eventually self-destructs by turning into Joker. See, Arthur is actually a good person, it is just his environment (and also his acute mental state) that is responsible in turning him into… Into what exactly? A deranged terrorist? Revolutionary radical? Vigilante? Serial killer? See, WE know what Joker is, but the movie doesn’t. And final scene actually leapfrogs and tries to convince viewers into something unjustifiable by Arthur’s persona. In the end there is nothing redeeming or satisfying in Joker’s transformation. Well, except if you actually do enjoy watching films about terrorists becoming terrorists.
Joaquin Phoenix though just kills it all with mind-blowing performance. It is a tremendous challenge to try to build on performances of Nicholson and Ledger, but unlike Leto, Phoenix decides not to create a new Joker persona but tread a thin line right in between Nicholson’s slick mobster and Ledger’s psychotic anarchist versions. Thus his Joker is a very successful amalgamation of both characters and it is what makes this movie work on a grand scale.
I decided to split the difference and call it 3.0/5.0
PS: People applauded, laughed and cheered in the most bloody, gruesome, weird and inappropriate moments in the film. Are they as messed up as Gotham citizens depicted in the film? Or is it just me who finds murders not funny? How f%$&ed up is that?