Not sure if you’ve been paying attention, but there’s a small film out this week that goes by the name of Joker. There’s been much discourse, plenty in favour, plenty who aren’t – but the film, which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival is getting people talking, and with that in mind, aren’t you curious to get involved with the conversation, and see where you stand? Well in the meantime, here’s where we stand: we loved it. It’s a dark, gritty and gruesome affair, the sort of film you need to take a shower after seeing. Joaquin Phoenix is on scintillating form, turning in arguably his finest performance to date, which is some compliment where he’s concerned. The nods to Scorsese’s King of Comedy are well-judged too, bringing so much to this character we’ve seen terrorising Gotham City plenty of times before.
There is one downside, and that is the film’s politics, it’s tonality. There’s an odd, semi-irresponsible heroism attached to the eponymous protagonist. The film is giving some sense of power to the lonely amongst us, those who feel like they don’t fit in. Which isn’t a bad thing, but when you bring in violence it becomes a different matter. Of course this is just cinema and should be treated as such, but perhaps in a current climate to give this much power and to almost worship the Joker as being some sort of mascot for the disenfranchised, may not be the wisest idea. But when you can see past this narrative flaw, the film is exceptionally well made, and we defy anyone to go and see this and not feel deeply unsettled. Doesn’t sound very appealing, but when cinema doesn’t always have to be.
But here is a film that is appealing, it’s Hitsville: The Making of Motown, a glorious, foot-tapping documentary that delve into the birth of Motown. The access is incredible, we spend much time in the company of Smokey Robinson and founder Berry Gordy, and they have an infectious chemistry. But this one is all about the music, and while it’s an accomplished piece of filmmaking, it’s just hearing these songs, that distinctive Motown sound. Featuring the likes of Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye and Martha Reeves, it enriches our favourite ever records with insightful and funny anecdotes. For any fan of Motown, scrap that, music, this is a must-see.
There’s a good chance this week that we may see the releases of the two films that feature both the best Actor and Actress at next year’s Academy Awards, as while we’re all lauding Phoenix, it’s fair to assume that Renée Zellweger will be in with a shout too, for her portrayal of screen icon Judy Garland. The film is basically Stan & Ollie all over again, following the same narrative structure – that of a Hollywood has been finding solace in a final UK tour. While it’s intriguing to delve into Garland’s life during this particular time, and while moving in certain moments, this film is all about its central performance.
Next up we have Dolly Wells’s directorial debut Good Posture. The star of British comedies, and lifelong friend of Emily Mortimer, has teamed up with her bestie to tell this intimate New York tale, of a young girl lodging with a successful author. Grace Van Patten takes on the lead in a film that feels so inspired by the likes of Woody Allen and Noah Baumbach, except coming complete with a dry, English wit. It does perhaps lack a little direction in its story, somewhat unfulfilling in that regard, but the understated approach is commendable too, as at the very least we could well have just seen the birth of a new exciting voice in independent cinema.
Finally we have The Birdcatcher, a World War Two set tale, of a Norwegian family hiding a young Jewish girl during the Nazi occupation. It’s a tale we’ve seen before, and with that in mind we crave a little ingenuity – just take Jojo Rabbit, as this film can be accused of being a little conventional. But it’s fine, it’s just in a week where there’s some pretty great films out, being fine isn’t quite enough.