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.