“Joker” Movie Review
What was being called the most anticipated movie of 2019 was finally released on Oct. 4 after months of trailers, expectations and predictions. “Joker” introduces a dark and twisted take on the familiar Batman villain and his origins in the early 1980s within the crumbling city of Gotham.
The film features an ensemble cast of Robert DeNiro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, and the almost unrecognizable, but completely phenomenal Joaquin Phoenix as the title character, in what’s already being called the greatest performance of his career.
“Joker” follows Arthur Fleck, a mentally ill party clown living in the crime-induced, impoverished city of Gotham. Living off of TV dinners, cigarettes and state provided medication, the story of Arthur Fleck may initially be perceived as some cliche, anti-heroic tale of a man turning his life around; getting on his feet and somehow lowering himself into Bruce Wayne’s story. Until the medication is halted, the crime is heightened, and the audience watches Arthur Fleck fall and the Joker rise in the disturbing but brilliant 122 minute runtime.
The film’s biggest rising controversy is the possibility for having sympathetic nature for people like Arthur Fleck. In times like these, with a mass shooting on the headlines of every newspaper, that fear is completely reasonable and valid.
However, the film does not show any compassion besides telling Fleck’s story and allowing us to see the events leading up to the climax of his madness, beginning with the halt on his medication, and the ultimate tragic, dark, twisted conclusion. It leads to insight seeing that the Joker was not solely created; society, the media and even the people around him had a part in the rise of his evil.
“Joker” is raising debates on the true nature of the film, as it’sobvious within the first twenty minutes that it’s not just a Batman villain origin story. It touches on all types of topics and social commentary (the most obvious being how society treats others with mental illnesses,) it pays tribute to the gritty realism brought by 1970’s experimental filmmaking of the New Hollywood movement, it reintroduces the concept of the unreliable narrator, reminds audiences of the power of manipulation cinema brings, all while keeping loyal to the plot and characters, an accomplishment that is so arduous and intricate to do as well as “Joker” did.
When introducing so many concepts to a film, stretching the film too thin can almost be guaranteed, and while that can be seen in moments of “Joker,” Joaquin Phoenix's performance is the bind that holds it all together. He creates an essence of disturbia, unbalance, and fear within the film itself that stretches beyond the character of Arthur Fleck.
To be plain and simple, Joaquin Phoenix is “Joker,” and from the minute audiences sit down and see the sad and foiled clown stretching his mouth to create the signature Joker smile, accompanied by a single tear, they realize that. The film doesn’t need to rely on modern technology, makeup, costumes or CGI for the power Phoenix creates by simply existing within the character.
While any ounce of happiness is completely erased throughout the runtime, that can’t distract from the fact that “Joker” is beautifully shot, impeccably acted, clever, and deserving of all of the attention and praise it’s sure to see in the coming months.
Lilly Adams is a junior majoring in film-video. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Contributors
Junior / Film/Video Studies