Venice Film Festival 2019 reviews: Joker, Rare Beasts
Ivan Radford | On 31, Aug 2019Reading time: 2 mins
With Netflix, Amazon and HBO out in force at the Venice Film Festival 2019, we head over to the Lido to catch up with their latest offerings and review some of the other films making their debuts.
“People don’t consider what it’s like to be the other guy anymore.” That’s Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) mid-rant in Joker, as he decries the state of the world today, a state that has left the rich dismissing the poor, the poor resenting the rich and people in need of medication and therapy with nowhere to turn for aid, due to state funding cuts. The year? Not 2019, but the 1970s, and Gotham City is on the brink of descent into madness: a febrile, feverish madness that means murders on the street are considered commonplace and riots on public transport the new norm. Beneath this gripping, bold, revisionist psychological thriler, which belongs more in the Joaquin Phoenix Universe than the DC Universe, Joker is the comic book villain we deserve right now.
Billie Piper makes her directorial debut with this enjoyably prickly affair – a romantic comedy that is determined to do something new and unique. And, in many ways, Rare Beasts does, as it introduces us to Mandy (Piper), a single mum who we meet in the middle of an excruciating date with her colleague, Pete (Leo Bill). He displays hints of sexism and barely suppressed rage, and that’s only within 5 minutes of their dinner starting – all red flags that would, in any sane world, have Mandy running for the door.
But this isn’t a sane world, and in a sea of people putting on fronts and trying to improve themselves in accordance with the latest fad, Pete stands out because he’s resolutely himself; there’s an authentic quality to his personal, intense, bitter asides and rants that Mandy is drawn to. And so the pair find themselves going down the relationship route, even though they’re a terrible fit for each other.
If that sounds like a miserable watch, Piper’s achievement is keeping things funny and often light – less a kitchen sink lament and more a celebration of two people finding a connection, even if it’s an uneasy one. It wouldn’t work without the cast’s convincing performances, and both Piper and Bill are brilliantly convincing as two extremely flawed individuals, with Kerry Fox and David Thewlis both excellent as Mandy’s parents. The script packs in a little too much for its slight runtime, from a troubled, distant child and a workplace satire to serious family drama and a dose of occasional confessional voiceovers, but the performances are wonderfully real, and that vivid, rounded honest is a rarity in itself – and a testament to the talents of both the ensemble and Piper as a director.
Rare Beasts does not yet have a UK release date.