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Toronto Film Festival 2019: Gritty ‘Joker’ is no superhero movie

TORONTO — “I’ll warn you,” said director Todd Phillips as he introduced the first North American screening of “Joker,” “it’s f–kng bonkers.” The “Hangover” director is partly right: The final act of his new movie is, indeed, satisfyingly shocking, as Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck sheds his sad-sack chrysalis and emerges, with requisite violence and gaiety, into full Joker. For the rest of the film’s running time, at the risk of not joining the hyperbolic mobs on either side, I’ll say it’s… well, not bad. This is no superhero movie. It’s a gritty drama about a schlub (Phoenix), saddled with a brain injury that causes him to cackle inadvertently, who’s caring for his ailing mom (Frances Conroy) an ...
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