"Joker" Film Review
By: Nathaniel Simpson
The Joker is perhaps one of the most famous comic book villains of all time. He has appeared through countless "Batman" comic books, fighting the caped crusader at every chance he gets. He has appeared through many film adaptations of the famous comic books, with the most famous being Heath Ledger's terrifying portrayal of the villain in Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight". Following the mass critical success of his portrayal, as well as Ledger's untimely death, Todd Phillips wanted to reboot the character, showing a more real-life Joker in today's twisted society. With Joaquin Phoenix in the starring role, Phillips delivers perhaps one of DC's best films, and one of the best portrays of the Joker character on film.
The film follows Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), who is an aspiring stand-up comedian with a medical condition that forces him to laugh uncontrollably. He lives with his older mother, Penny (Frances Conroy), and they tune into their favorite show every night, which is a late night talk show with Arthur's idol, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro). However, Arthur's life seems to go downhill, causing him to take a violent approach to everyone who does him wrong in his life.
Phoenix is absolutely incredible in this movie. He's terrifying, yet at the same time we feel for his character. Arthur clearly has more medical conditions than his laughter, which is hinted at him being abused at a young age. He wants to do good, that is obvious. He has clear intentions to want to make everyone laugh, yet he goes at it in the completely wrong way.
The world that Phillips has created is incredible to watch. These characters he has created in his version of Gotham are so horrible and cruel that you want to root for Arthur. That's how you know the filmmakers are doing their job is when you want to root for the antagonist of the movie. It's a great character piece, along the likes of Scorsese's "Taxi Driver", and it's due to the portrayal of these characters that Arthur meets throughout the film. A big example of this is Murray Franklin's treatment of Arthur. He makes Arthur feel like he's everything and the biggest person in the world, only to ridicule him on his TV show in front of everyone. It's honestly tragic that Arthur must go through this abuse, which is what really happens to people everyday in the real world.
The cinematography is incredible, with many well executed shots involving Arthur as the Joker. One of the best in the whole film is when he's getting ready to take the stage on the Murray Franklin Show, and he's dancing in slo-motion behind the curtain. It's hauntingly beautiful, and really shows who the Joker is as a character.
I think Phillips and Phoenix really capture the beauty and the horror behind the Joker character. I had my fears and hesitations as I thought they for sure couldn't live up to Ledger's legacy, but I was wrong, and they delivered a beautiful and masterful film that documents the true tragedy behind a person's sanity.