in Culture Insight

Paul Anderson is an Arts broadcaster, radio presenter, producer and journalist. He’s known for work on BBC 6 Music, Xfm, Capital as well as hosting his own one-hour film show ‘At The Movies’ on Smooth Radio. Paul is also a member of the London Film Critic’s Circle. Follow him on Twitter @afilmguy.

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JOKER : 15

As with Hamlet in the theatre, the role of The Joker on screen is fast becoming the defining role for male actors. It is all Heath Ledger’s fault for setting the bar so high and even with a gargantuan talent and presence such as Joaquin Phoenix that bar remains just out of reach. Todd Phillips is the director and gave us The Hangover, if you’re expecting laughs there’s nothing to be seen here. Arthur Fleck is just out of hospital clutching a veritable jamboree bag of medication. He has the Tourettic affliction of involuntary unstoppable laughter. Arthur works as a clown by day and as the worst stand up you’ve ever seen or heard at night. He has dreams of dating Sophie who lives in his block and cares for his sick mother. One day he gets beaten up and acquires a gun. He’s fired by the clown boss for taking the gun into a children’s ward at a hospital. Arthur becomes more unhinged and reliant on the Joker persona eventually killing some boys on a train. He is lured into the Gotham underworld and kills repeatedly. Phoenix is brilliant at playing unhinged and his ability as a physical actor is underrated. However, without Batman to rail against, be the nemesis of and seek to destroy, Joker lacks bite. It is an adequate study of the psychopathic tendencies of a truly disturbed character and the seductive nature of the underworld in a city such as Gotham, but it is no superhero movie. Phoenix is genuinely jaw-droppingly brilliant at times and Robert De Niro superb as chat show guy Murray Franklin. But yes, Heath Ledger is looking over your shoulder.  

JUDY : 12A

Renée Zellweger tends to do extraordinary in most of her performances and in her role as icon Judy Garland she does it again. The movie centres mainly on Garland’s attempted comeback at ‘The Talk of the Town’ nightclub in London. In so doing it relies on flashbacks to establish her childhood struggles during the filming of The Wizard Of Oz; which included being fed a cocktail of pills to help her sleep and keep her from gaining weight (Ahh, the glory days of the studio system eh?) So, begins a journey of bad habits and child custody battles, temporary homelessness and demeaning work for money way below her worth. Hence the offer snapped up to appear in London, complete with a minder (Jesse Buckley) to try and keep her in order. A barnstorming performance from Zellweger is Oscar worthy, and if anything, it feels as if that was the reason for the whole thing. Garland’s life is well documented, the drugs and booze battles alongside the incredible talent; hats off to Zellweger for studying for a year with a vocal coach although she could already sing. She’s funny, oozes personality and just about captures the essence of Garland. Judy has an excellent supporting cast with Rufus Sewell as ex-husband Sid Luft. Directed by top notch theatre guy Rupert Goold, the movie is all about Zellweger and worth the admission fee alone for that joyous performance. C’mon Get Happy!  

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