JOKER (15) 122 Minutes
Joker is an extraordinary piece of cinema, first and foremost for its necessary social commentary, but also a truly spectacular performance by Joaquin Phoenix in the role of Arthur Fleck, who is destined to become the scourge of Gotham City and Batman’s deadliest nemesis.
Arthur is a fragile, gaunt man downtrodden and bruised from sporadic beatings. Yearning to be a comedian like his idol, talk-show host Murrary Franklin (Robert De Niro), Fleck’s dreams are held back by the full time care of his frail, unsupportive mother (Frances Conroy) and a hideous condition that forces him into unprovoked, painful laughter.
Without an ounce of love or kindness shown to him, Arthur’s mental state worsens and culminates in a stunning transformation into infamous agent of chaos, The Joker.
In crafting this film as an alternate origin story, director Todd Phillips strikes gold with his mid-80’s setting. The American dream is long since dead and buried. This is a selfish place where the insecurities of a lonesome man are the least of people’s problems.
Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen) is politically active, and Gotham’s working class are politically aggressive. Arthur’s stunning descent into madness paves the way for a social uprising. In the aftermath of his eventual snap, he becomes an archaic messiah.
Saying that, this is Joker we’re talking about – everything is ambiguous, but it certainly gives us a beautiful study of our own misdeeds and ignorance to those in need of help.
Phoenix is truly magnificent. He equals Heath Ledger’s iconic portaray with an inventive, frightening portrayal of a man dragged through the mud and reborn as a confidently wicked individual. You can see the evil filling his eyes as his life gets progressively worse.
What strikes me the most is that there’s no grand scheme nor villainous plan from Arthur Fleck. He just wants to be seen. Noticed. Loved, even. This is more than a story. It’s an example of how bad things can get.
Phoenix has to be an Oscar contender for this.
But what does Joker really say? Many out there feel this performance will encourage those in similar situations to imitate his violent side. There’s a lot of negativity brewing from the project as people are fearful of public violence.
“Comedy is subjective” proclaims the clown, tilting his painted face up in the air and lighting up his hundredth cigarette.
Art is subjective. End of story.