Film Review: Joker
Troubled wannabe comedian Arthur Fleck delves into madness as his life crumbles around him during a crime-fuelled social revolution in Gotham City.
Since opening to an eight-minute standing ovation at the Venice film festival in August, and widespread conjecture that star Joaquin Phoenix would be a strong contender for an Oscar, the buzz around Joker has been palpable.
As with all highly anticipated films, Joker had lofty expectations to live up to. Miraculously Joker surpassed them all to become arguably the best DC movie made since Christopher Nolan’s Academy Award-winning film The Dark Knight.
Joker is not a film to watch if you’re hoping for a laugh, which is ironic given that it’s about a clown. Instead, it’s a bleak look at downtrodden society and what it can do to a person who is pushed too far.
While set in 80s era Gotham City, director Todd Phillips creates many parallels to the oppressive evils of today, with the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer.
It’s a dystopian view, but one which motivates lead character Arthur Fleck’s (Joaquin Phoenix) descent into anarchy and madness. Fleck has been beaten up and abused by life. There are no happy endings in sight for him and all he is looking for is to “not feel so bad anymore”.
Adding to Arthur’s misery is his debilitating brain damage which causes him to break out into uncontrollable manic laughter at the most inconvenient of times.
As the city around him starts to crumble, so too does Arthur’s psyche. His shattered mind leads viewers to question what is real and, in an odd way, sympathise with his actions which become more reprehensible as the film progresses.
Like Heath Ledger’s Oscar-winning performance in The Dark Knight, Phoenix is outstanding in the titular role and well-deserving of the Oscar buzz.
Phoenix’s transformation is phenomenal. His unhealthy amount of weight loss for the role leaves him looking almost skeletal and like a man whose diet consists of misery, madness and nicotine.
While many will attempt to compare the performance to that of Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson and Jared Leto’s tenure as the Joker, Phoenix’s iteration stands apart. It’s the darkest imagining of the character, mostly because of its primary focus on the man behind the makeup.
Joker is bleak and devastating, yet beautiful to look at and nearly impossible to look away from. Phillips and Phoenix have created one of the best comic book movies of all time and one of the best films of 2019.
Final Verdict: 4.5/5 stars.
Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen.
If you liked the movie, try:
Taxi Driver, The Dark Knight, Batman (1989), The Man Who Laughs (1928), The King of Comedy, You Were Never Really Here.
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