Joaquin Phoenix and Joker Director Todd Phillips Surprise Moviegoers at NYC Screening of Film

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Joaquin Phoenix, Todd Phillips are posing for a picture: Joaquin Phoenix and Joker Director Todd Phillips Surprise Moviegoers at NYC Screening of Film

Phoenix looked happy as he and Phillips smiled and told the crowd it was their first screening of the night.

“The audience was thrilled to see both of them,” DeVore tells PEOPLE. “They seemed to love the movie, and I doubt Philips and Phoenix could have received a warmer welcome.”

DeVore tweeted about their presence, writing, “Todd Phillips and Jaoquin [sic] Phoenix were at my screening of Joker tonight and the nerds were PUMPED (fyi i am a jock).”

Critics have both praised the movie and criticized it for its strong language and graphic scenes of violence, which have caused some families of mass shooting victims to express worry about the Joker‘s content.

Phoenix addressed those concerns in a September press conference, telling reporters, “I think that, for most of us, you’re able to tell the difference between right and wrong.”

“And those that aren’t are capable of interpreting anything in the way that they may want to,” he continued. “People misinterpret lyrics from songs. They misinterpret passages from books. So I don’t think it’s the responsibility of a filmmaker to teach the audience morality or the difference between right or wrong. I mean, to me, I think that that’s obvious.”

After the film’s Toronto International Film Festival premiere, Collider’s Perri Nemiroff wrote, “#Joker is one of the most unnerving movies I’ve seen in years. Joaquin Phoenix is astounding – the physicality of his work is especially impressive. It’s very well made across the board but I also found it very upsetting & right now I can’t shake that. Need to sit with this more.”

“I saw #Joker — and it is unlike anything before it,” Brandon Davis of ComicBook.com tweeted. “The movie is dark, thrilling, and chilling. An insane masterpiece. The movie absolutely transcends being a comic book film and acts as a character study which, at times, will make audiences uncomfortable in wild ways.”

Joker has a nasty, oppressive power, and it never falters in its grim, purposeful momentum,” PEOPLE’s Tom Gliatto writes. “It feels like two hours spent locked in the trunk of a moving vehicle.”

Joker is in theaters on Friday.

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