One of the big questions facing “Joker” after its shocking Golden Lion win at the Venice Film Festival was how film critics and journalists would respond to the film when it touched down at the Toronto International Film Festival. The comic book film’s Venice victory proved to be hugely controversial on social media, leading some to think critical backlash was going to be inevitable at TIFF. Warner Bros. can rest easy as “Joker” made its TIFF debut to more rave reactions and Oscar buzz for Joaquin Phoenix’s transformative lead performance.
“‘Joker’ doesn’t reinvent the comic book movie, but it’s certainly the scariest one — a taut psychological thriller with a few horror movie twists,” IndieWire chief critic Eric Kohn wrote after the film’s first TIFF screening. “Joaquin Phoenix, though, yikes: Looks like he stepped out of ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari,’ or maybe he’s still trapped there. Astounding.”
Collider’s Perri Nemiroff hailed “Joker” as one of the “most unnerving” movies she has seen in years. “Joaquin Phoenix is astounding – the physicality of his work is especially impressive,” Nemiroff wrote. “It’s very well made across the board but I also found it very upsetting and right now I can’t shake that. Need to sit with this more.”
The Playlist awards prognosticator Gregory Ellwood said Phoenix’s performance “lives up to the hype” after the rave reactions from Venice, while People movie news editor Nigel Smith raved, “Joaquin Phoenix has demons and we’re lucky for it. The guy’s astonishing.” The actor’s awards buzz continues to soar, with Business Insider’s Jason Guerrasio writing that Phoenix gives a “tour-de-force” that is an “Oscar-caliber performance.”
Expect more “Joker” reactions from TIFF to hit as the film continues to screen throughout the week. Warner Bros. will release the movie nationwide October 4.
JOKER doesn’t reinvent the comic book movie, but it’s certainly the scariest one — a taut psychological thriller w/a few horror movie twists. Joaquin Phoenix, though, yikes: Looks like he stepped out of THE CABINET OF DR CALIGARI, or maybe he’s still trapped there. Astounding.
— erickohn (@erickohn) September 10, 2019
more TK on JOKER, but for now I will say that in the middle of the movie I thought the Venice jury had lost their damn minds, and by the end, I sort of got it
— Sam Adams (@SamuelAAdams) September 10, 2019
#Joker is one of the most unnerving movies I’ve seen in years. Joaquin Phoenix is astounding – the physicality of his work is especially impressive. It’s very well made across the board but I also found it very upsetting & right now I can’t shake that. Need to sit with this more.
— Perri Nemiroff (@PNemiroff) September 10, 2019
JOKER: Guys…it’s good. A simplistic script is saved by Phoenix’s great performance, Phillips’ impressive direction, Hildur Guðnadóttir’s moody score, and Lawrence Sher’a gorgeous cinematography. This isn’t just a dark drama, it’s a full-blown horror movie. #TIFF19
— Chris Evangelista @ TIFF (@cevangelista413) September 10, 2019
#Joker: Wow. Joaquin Phoenix and Todd Phillips summon dark mojo for a descent into madness, for the origin story to beat all origin stories. Forget comic books — this is disturbingly too close to modern alienation to be dismissed as mere fantasy. #TIFF19 pic.twitter.com/LfmcDfAwE7
— Peter Howell (@peterhowellfilm) September 10, 2019
JOKER: Not your daddy’s #Joker movie. Riveting & engrossing, unnerving & disturbing, intense & very violent. A cross between Taxi Driver, King of Comedy & Network. #JoaquinPhoenix is haunting, very different from Jack & Heath. Need to stew on this one. #TIFF19 pic.twitter.com/L1ySwUgzDO
— Scott Mantz (@MovieMantz) September 10, 2019
JOKER: The perfect origin story for a lunatic with no origin. Todd Phillips gives DC it’s first true masterpiece. The Clown Prince has never been more deranged, more dangerous, and more real. A brutal work that will have audiences raving. #Joker #JokerMovie #TIFF19 pic.twitter.com/laz2oiy5iw
— CinemaBlend (@CinemaBlend) September 10, 2019
#Joker is an extremely ultra violent tale but it’s also a concerning commentary on mental illness, class, feeling ostracized from society. It’s really chilling to watch. #TIFF19 pic.twitter.com/pX6z0DdlI9
— Jason Guerrasio (@JasonGuerrasio) September 10, 2019
JOKER is phenomenal. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is next level. No other performance this year will be able to top this one. There is so much to digest with this film too including its exploration of humanity & mental illness. A Flawless Masterpiece. #JokerMovie #Joker pic.twitter.com/uNIQ11aShV
— Scott Menzel @ Toronto International Film Festival (@TheOtherScottM) September 10, 2019
— Beatrice Verhoeven (@bverhoev) September 10, 2019
— Nigel M. Smith (@nigelmfs) September 10, 2019
Joaquin Phoenix lives up to the hype in Joker. Beautifully shot. Great production design. Percolating on the rest…#TIFF19
— Gregory Ellwood – TIFF – The Playlist 🎬 (@TheGregoryE) September 10, 2019
JOKER: That’s a whole lot of set-up to land the kill(ing?) joke. But Phoenix makes the punchline stick in a big way. Warning: You may feel the need to wash this movie off afterwards. It’s a shaggy dog story purposefully covered in fleas.
— Ethan Alter is @ TIFF (@ethanalter) September 10, 2019