Director: Todd Philipps
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz
When it was revealed that Warner Bros. Pictures and DC Comics had greenlit a standalone Joker movie, I was slightly suspicious. I didn’t feel that the character needed to be revisited after Heath Ledger’s turn as the infamous DC Comics villain. And after having seen Jared Leto’s take on the role, I felt that my reservations had been well-founded.
I was even more suspicious when I heard that this new Joker movie was going to be directed by The Hangover’s director, Todd Philipps. He also helped write the script.
That said, after having seen Todd Philipps’ film, I can admit that I was wrong. There was room for another actor’s version of Joker, and it turns out that Joaquin Phoenix was the perfect person to bring the villain back to the big screen.
Joker is supposedly set sometime in the 1980s, although it’s not clear exactly when the film takes place. The film sees Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck, who’s a man who feels abandoned by society. He works in Gotham City as a sign twirler, a job which requires him to dress up as a clown.
His lifelong dream is to become a stand-up comedian. Yet, he struggles to understand what people find funny, and he also suffers from a crippling disability where he laughs whenever he’s in stressful situations. This disability, of course, lands him in a lot of trouble at multiple points in the movie.
Wow! Joaquin Phoenix is on fire as Joker!
I used to think that my life was a tragedy, but now I realize, it’s a comedy.
There’s only one place to start when talking about Joker, and that’s Phoenix’s performance, which I would argue is Oscar-worthy. People often get sidetracked by actors putting on or shedding a lot of weight for the role, and granted, Phoenix got dangerously thin for this film. However, his performance is so much more than just his extreme diet.
His physicality in the role is unlike anything I’ve ever seen on-screen. The way he moves, the way he holds himself, the way he dances, the way you can tell that his impromptu bouts of laughter is causing him physical pain. Even his voice. It all adds to his grandstanding performance as the Joker.
Watching him made me feel uneasy. It’s quite unbearable at times, and genuinely frightening. I’d be shocked if I see a performance that quite matches Phoenix’s this year.
Todd Philipps made this! Really?
My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face. She told me I had a purpose: to bring laughter and joy to the world.
However, I’d argue that Joker isn’t just about Phoenix’s performance – although I have heard some people say it is. Despite all the rave reviews (and awards) the film received after its premiere at the Venice Film Festival, I didn’t go into it expecting all that much. The reason is simple – Todd Philipps directed the movie, and I haven’t enjoyed any of his films.
Well, while sitting in my seat during the film’s end credits, I was in a state of shock after what I had just seen. I didn’t expect such a brutal and poignant film, especially not from the man who gave us The Hangover 1,2, and 3.
Then I walked home and couldn’t get the film out of my head. I still can’t. I could completely understand why certain people – mainly in the US – were worried about the reaction a film like this might elicit.
We live in uncertain times, and the political landscape is tense out there, and it’s understandable why a film such as Joker might get some people riled up.
A comic book movie about real-life issues
When you bring me out, can you introduce me as Joker?
Joker’s overriding message is about the people who’ve been shunned by society. The one per cent rule everything, and the rest have been forgotten and told that a billionaire like Thomas Wayne is their only hope for a better life.
It’s particularly poignant in our current age of Brexit and Trump, which is why this film hit so close to home for so many people.
Yet, it’s more than that. It’s also about how society no longer cares for people with mental illness. I can’t claim that this film is the perfect representation of mental illness because it’s not something I’ve ever suffered from personally.
However, I do know people that have, and the majority of them have told me that Arthur Fleck’s troubles with mental illness are relatively accurate.
Could Joker change comic book movies forever?
Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?
Philipps has made something exceptional in my opinion. It’s more than just your average comic book movie. I would call it a graphic novel movie because it explores real-life themes and forgoes massive action set pieces.
That said, I do understand why people who love the genre might feel let down by Joker. However, I can’t help but think this is going to be one of the most influential comic book films ever made.
Films like Joker and Logan are changing the comic book movie landscape, and I can’t wait to see what comes from the massive success of these films.
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