SADLY, IT DID CROSS MY MIND IF any of the theater patrons were looking at me as a threat; these are the times we live in now. I was the only one, as far as I could see, who was wearing a jacket inside the theater. Following my usual routine, I was standing outside in the hallway of the theater waiting for the previews to begin. I was observing the people walking in and then guessing if they were here to see the same movie as me. There was so much buzz about today’s film, I assumed it would only make people more curious to see it. With the film being shown in several of the movie theaters of the multiplex, I watched as the people filtered into the individual theaters that lined the long hallway. Sure enough, there were several couples who had their children with them to see this picture. I cannot tell you how much this always upsets me; taking young children to R rated films, especially when the rating is meant for the level of violence depicted in the movie. As I was looking at these families, I wondered what affect this film would have on these young kids. From there my mind began wandering off, where I started remembering some of my classmates when I was back in school. IT SEEMED AS IF EACH CLASSROOM had at least one bully, one creepy and one scary student. I think I mentioned in a past movie review a student I knew who was unkind to animals. He was not someone I ever associated with and for good reason. There was also a classmate who found it funny to make snowballs with a rock in the center of them. He equally enjoyed throwing these snowballs at kids and buses. I can still remember the feeling I had around certain students; they never showed any remorse or concern for the individuals they harmed. They scared me, causing me to always be cautious around them. Anytime I would see one of them in the hallway between classes, I would veer off as far as I could to the side, so as not to get in close contact with them. As I am writing this review, I am now recalling how one of these scary students wanted to enlist in the military so he could kill people. What I have just written in this review is to show you how today’s dramatic, crime thriller affected me when I went to see it. BEFORE THERE WAS A BATMAN THERE was Arthur Fleck, played by Joaquin Phoenix (Her, You Were Never Really Here), who wanted to be a stand-up comic. How in the world did telling jokes turn into a deadly profession? Find out in this film festival winning movie. With Robert De Niro (The Comedian, Dirty Grandpa) as Murray Franklin, Zazie Beetz (Geostorm, Deadpool 2) as Sophie Dumond, Frances Conroy (The Aviator, Six Feet Under-TV) as Penny Fleck and Brett Cullen (Ghost Rider, Person of Interest-TV) as Thomas Wayne; this film was disturbing to watch. Joaquin was unbelievable in the role. Having lost 52 pounds, I had a hard time looking at Joaquin; most of his bones had become prominent. The story plotted out a logical progression in the transformation of his character; however, there were times I felt it was predictable and reminiscent of a couple of other films I had seen in the past. With both the script and the filming having a darkness to it; I could understand the concerns people have expressed about this origin story. Ultimately this is a fictional film movie based on a cartoon character; but, it certainly will make you wonder.
When anyone describes their emotions as a roller coaster ride I believe them. Between friends and work I have seen some extreme actions from people. There was a friend of mine who suffered with bouts of depression from time to time. They were resistant to seeking out help because they were afraid they would be labeled crazy. Yes I know it was a very old concept. Luckily they met a doctor who explained things in a way that brought comfort to my friend and they began to use an antidepressant. Another friend of mine had a tragic experience when their boyfriend who was bipolar committed suicide; he left a gut-wrenching note behind. To a different extreme I had a woman in my yoga class who was classified manic depressive. I did not know it at first but after some time I noticed when she was not wearing her eyeglasses she was bubbly and animated. If she had her glasses on then she was pretty much non-emotional and quiet. After a few months she came up to me after class to ask about a particular yoga pose. From that conversation she informed me of her condition and told me about some of the things she had done when she was on her “high” as she referred to it. I will say some of the stuff she said she did was off the wall as they say, but she stressed how yoga helped keep her steady. It was an eye opening experience for me to say the least and one that was a precursor to the character in this movie. WHEN Alice Klieg, played by Kristen Wiig (The Skeleton Twins, Girl Most Likely), won the lottery she decided to go off of her meds and buy herself a talk show. She wanted to be the next Oprah. This comedic drama had several strengths in its favor. The main one was Kristen; her dramatic acting in this role was made even better with her physicality. With the other actors such as Tim Robbins (Jacob’s Ladder, Mystic River) as Dr. Daryl Moffet, Wes Bentley (The Hunger Games, American Beauty) as Gabe Ruskin and James Marsden (The Best of Me, The Loft) as Rich Ruskin; they all worked well together in keeping the story on track. Not that watching this film would make one feel as if they were a spectator at a traffic accident, but there were times where I felt I was witnessing the breakdown of a human being. The only negative I saw was in the directing; there were some uneven moments through the film. However, having the right mix of humor and drama in this interesting original story, along with Kristen’s wonderful acting and I was hooked.
There was a time when one would see children playing outside. From a group of pretend space explorers to an afternoon tea party on the front lawn, a child’s imagination had no limits. I can remember playing in the alley behind the building I grew up in, with its high 3rd floor. Behind it there was a tall oak tree that I would climb up, to the height of the 2nd floor apartments. There I would sit and be the lookout for evil ghosts coming after my friends playing below in the alley. Today I rarely see children playing outside and I think it is because of all the pressures that are placed on them. With my family and friends who have children, there are so many activities they have signed their kids up for that there is no down time. I understand the thinking behind all these activities; creating opportunities for the child to excel, becoming well rounded, helping them on their path to becoming successful. Imagine the pressures that some children feel these days and may not have the tools to cope. In this poignant film from the writing duo of Ryan Fleck and Anna Buden (Half Nelson, Sugar) the story was about hight school student Craig, played by Keir Gilchrist (A Lobster Tale, Dead Silence). Unable to cope with the pressures placed on him, Craig admitted himself into a psychiatric ward of a hospital. Due to renovations in the juvenile ward, he had to be placed with the adult patients. With fellow patient Bobby, played by Zach Galifianakis (The Campaign, The Hangover franchise) as his guide; Craig discovered a world that appeared to be more normal than the one he left. I thought the topic of mental illness was gently handled in this dramatic comedy. The cast which also included Viola Davis (Beautiful Creatures, Won’t Back Down) as Dr. Eden Minerva and Emma Roberts (Nancy Drew, Hotel for Dogs) as Noelle did a beautiful job with their characters. There was a respect given to their maladies as they tried coping as best as they could. This was a stress free viewing experience, giving me the opportunity to sit back and relax.
2 2/3 stars — DVD