Thursday, May 30, 2024

Toronto Push Back: “Joker,” Meryl Streep Movie, “Goldfinch,” “Jojo Rabbit” Score Poorly with Critics After Ecstatic Screenings


It’s not easy out there if you’re a filmmaker. Audiences may love your work, and then the critics come after you with long knives.

In the case of Rian Johnson’s very clever “Knives Out,” this wasn’t the cast. Its Toronto screenings have produced raves. The hilarious Agatha Christie type murder mystery has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes. Everyone who’s seen it, loves it. Craig sporting a Southern accent is a hoot, and the whole cast, most especially Ana de Armas, shines.

But elsewhere, movies shown at the Toronto Film Festival have had schizophrenic responses. They’re cheered and given standing ovations, then shredded by the reviewers.

Right now, Todd Phillips’s excellent “Joker” is getting a lot of pushback. The RT score is 77. I expected at least a 90. But as press files in, they are not happy with the violence expressed by Arthur Fleck, aka The Joker. He’s coming as off as one of the crazy, lone gunmen from real life who’ve killed huge groups of people in real life. The reviewers are not responding to it as fiction. It’s very wrong to compare Joker, a comic book character, to the Dylan Root’s and so on of this world. But then again, there is no hero counterbalance in the film. And that may be an issue.

“Jojo Rabbit” is also scoring around 73. Taika Waititi’s Hitler satire is extremely divisive. Some people seem to love it. I am among those who didn’t. Fox Searchlight is much better served by their Armando Iannucci movie, “The Personal History of David Copperfield,” which is so entertaining and hilarious it’s like a balm after “Jojo,” which also had a stamding ovation– unaccountably– at its premiere.

Not fairing well either are two “literary” movies– the adaptation of “The Goldfinch,” which is set to bomb this weekend with a 26 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and terrible reviews from Toronto; and Steven Soderbergh’s Netflix film, “The Laundromat,” starring Meryl Streep. The latter is a rare disaster for both director and star. Charitably, it has a 54 on RT. But truly, this is one better served by the Netflix platform and not viewed in a theater, where there are exits.



Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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