Todd Phillips’ film Joker came out in theaters worldwide over a month ago now, yet people are still talking about it. What is it about this film that everyone is either loving or hating? Well, as a UNBF film student, I will do my best to review it (without spoilers, I promise). So don’t worry if you have not watched it yet, even though I think you should have by this point.
General (VERY BASIC) plot: In Gotham City, the mentally troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. His path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: “The Joker.” The film is about mental illness as much as it is a story about the character of the Joker, specifically what happens when society cares so little about its citizens that it takes away programs that help them stay healthy.
Puerto Rican born American actor Joaquin Phoenix plays the Joker (perhaps you remember him as Theodore from Her or Commodus from Gladiator), delivering what I see as an oscar-winning performance. For me, that was one of the highlights of the film, along with the impressive cinematography, which I will talk about shortly.
Fans of The Dark Knight, CALM DOWN. I am not here to say who among Joaquin Phoenix, Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger was the best Joker (yes, Jared Leto was intentionally left out of this list for obvious reasons). I am just here to express my fascination with Phoenix’s performance. The physical and emotional depths that Phoenix goes to in Joker are unreal. The actor managed to reduce himself to a skeletal state for the role and excels in conveying the blurriness between control and chaos.
Arthur shys away from the public because of his erratic behavior (which feels like it could turn dangerous). However, it is easy for the viewer to empathize with his desire to be loved, without necessarily loving him. Everything about the storytelling—from the invasive sound design, the dark cinematography and the film’s score—is designed to be oppressive and to push the audience towards sympathizing with the fact that the protagonist is the primary victim of all the oppression.
Although a great film from my perspective, Joker has indeed been criticized due to concerns that it could inspire a mass shooting, particularly due to its excess of violence, similar to what happened at a Colorado theatre in 2012 during The Dark Knight Rises. I have to admit, violence is pretty explicit in the film, so if you are a person that can’t deal with it, just don’t watch it. What I like about it though is that the film does not hide the reality of what happens in the real world unlike some fiction films do. Calm down, I’m not saying that people can become Jokers and Batman will come to save all of us. What I mean is that violence, unfortunately, is part of our society and the film does a good job of portraying reality in that sense.
I had a 500-word limit to express my feelings towards the film Joker. If I could sum up in two words: simply amazing. Seriously, get your butt outside and go to Cineplex to watch this movie. It will be worth every single penny.