Joker is directed by Todd Phillips and it is the origin story of arguably the most popular comic book villain of all time, The Joker. This movie follows Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill stand-up comedian who is failed by society everyday until he decides to do something about it and the path that follows will lead Arthur to a dark and ironically happy place. This movie stars Joaquin Phoenix as Joker and co-stars Robert De Niro and Zazie Beetz.
When the trailer and first look at Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker debuted, I knew this movie was going for a more artistic approach. A movie which had something to say. A movie which will understandably be explicitly disturbing and dark and for that reason I felt intimidated. It looked morbid and ominous and for the longest time I judged it harshly for that reason. I was still uneasy sitting down in the cinema before the movie started, however now I understand and I can see why my reaction to the movie prior to seeing it was appropriate. As the credits began rolling I looked at my friend, we were both in pure shock and disbelief at what we had just witnessed. We had no idea what to make of it however as we started discussing the movie more and more, I came to the realization that Joker might actually be one of the best movies I’ve ever seen.
From the opening scene to the chilling finale, Joker consistently remained a movie which forces it’s audience in a state of unease. Usually when we watch a movie, our brains shut off and we enjoy what we see. We feel multiple emotions and by the end we go back to the real world. However with Joker I was paying full attention, analyzing every scene, really without wanting to. This movie grabs your attention and doesn’t let go for a long time. I spent a few days thinking about this movie. It’s long-lasting effect on the audience succeeds because of one factor only, realism. This move may be set in the 1980’s but it feels very much like it’s set in modern times. This is due to the aggressive nature of the movie’s view of society.
I read somewhere that instead of throwing the Joker into acid and chemicals, they threw him into society but the result was the same. To me that’s brilliant and the way Todd Phillips manages to truly execute this concept is stunning. The movie shines a light on society like no other comic-book movie has ever done. It’s directly asking the audience to think about the role they have in creating someone like this. Not just by treating people with kindness but even in long-term effects like cutting the fund on mental health treatment which isn’t given the massive importance it should be given even today. That’s what makes the movie scary, there are no chemicals, this Joker is created by society, not only that but there is no Batman to save the day which unfortunately makes sense. If a person goes through so much tragedy, it’s much easier to fall into the dark side of things than to turn into good. It’s not impossible but in the real world the chances of a Joker is more common than a Batman.
Lately a lot of articles are highlighting how successful the movie is at the box-office and if this movie does make it to a billion dollars, it will be the cheapest movie to do so. Ironically though I’d say this movie has a better special effect than CGI, this movie has Joaquin Phoenix. I don’t want to compare his performance to any other Joker because they all have a different take on the role. This however is my favourite interpretation of Joker. Phoenix’s performance is perfect. There is no other word for his performance, just perfect. There are so many scenes throughout this movie which are instant classics because of his performance. Early on there is an uncomfortably long shot of his face and just the way you can see the different emotions cross his face so clearly, I can’t praise him enough. However my favourite scene in the entire movie takes place near the end which I obviously won’t spoil but Phoenix brilliantly goes back and forth between being Arthur and Joker until one of them reigns supreme. You can literally pinpoint the exact moment it happens.
Ever since it debuted, Gotham has had a rather nasty reputation. It’s never been portrayed as a nice city and it never will be, it’s the exact purpose why the Batman and Joker are the way that they are. The Gotham in Joker is wonderfully brought to life thanks to the haunting cinematography by Lawrence Sher. Another element which helps the audience sink into the atmosphere is the eerie musical score by Hildur Guðnadóttir. It was quite noticeable throughout the movie, which for me is rare. Usually the score feels like background noise unless it’s unique and blended well with the movie which this one is. Usually when it comes to a script, I rarely give it any praise during a review, however Joker’s script by Phillips and Scott Silver is one of the best written scripts I’ve seen in a long time, so many iconic lines!
As a whole, Joker succeeds at being not only an excellent and well-crafted movie but it succeeds at being thought-provoking and leaving the audience with an important conversation to follow. Thanks to a masterful performance from Joaquin Phoenix and a brilliant screenplay from Todd Phillips and Scott Silver, the movie’s reached an instant classic status. The movie’s aggressive nature works as it asks real, important and relevant questions to the audience. The complete lack of superheroes sets this movie in a dark, grim but sadly realistic Gotham which mirrors today’s world. A world which sadly fails a lot of people, people who can become the Joker.