‘Joker’ Review – Phoenix is Phenomenal In A Raw and Eye Opening Film

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Synopsis:

Forever alone in a crowd, failed comedian Arthur Fleck seeks connection as he walks the streets of Gotham City. Arthur wears two masks — the one he paints for his day job as a clown, and the guise he projects in a futile attempt to feel like he’s part of the world around him. Isolated, bullied and disregarded by society, Fleck begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into the criminal mastermind known as the Joker.

Who is your favorite Joker? Not anymore. Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is here to replace all previous renditions. While Heath Ledger’s Joker is usually the fan-favorite and understandably so, Phoenix adds something to the character that hasn’t been done before. Never before has there been depth to the character. Joker directed by Todd Phillips allows the audience to experience the character in a way that examines his circumstances and psyche. It’s not your average comic book movie and shouldn’t be watched as if it is one. To compare Joker to other comic book movies would be doing it a disservice. There are no frills or superhuman abilities to distract you from what’s going on, just a raw visceral look into a broken man. We’re not simply thrown into the criminal underworld of Gotham that we are used to. Instead, we are shown a broken society on the verge of chaos. The chaos is due to a negligent city government which has caused a rift between the have and the have nots. Furthermore, that turbulence directly affects Arthur Fleck in the worse possible way. While the character may be championed by some and loathed by others, there’s no denying the social commentary that the film provides. The film can also be viewed as a cautionary tale along with it being a character study. The phrase, tears of a clown came to mind while I watched. The tears in this case just happen to be acidic. While the vast majority of us don’t and shouldn’t end up going down the road Arthur does, everyone has a breaking point. With that said, the art should be accepted and viewed as art. Control yourself. I enjoyed every second of this film. From the cinematography, the score, to the lighting, Todd Phillips and crew really enveloped me in Gotham City’s grittiness. I’ll be at the theater to see it again. Joker is woeful, thrilling, shocking, and ruthless, everything you want in a film. Seems like the Joker will get the last laugh this time. Oh, and we have to talk about the ending one day.

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Plot & Pace 

Taking place in the ’80s, Joker follows Arthur Fleck as he attempts to make his way into stand-up comedy. Working as a clown to make a living and take care of his mother, he cracks along with the city he’s apart of. Bad things happen to good people but on occasion, it transforms those innocent victims into opportunistic, unremorseful criminals. The film not only focuses on Arthur but plays up the downward spiral the city is going into to. Is the city mirroring Arthur or is Arthur feeding of the ills of society? No time or scenes are wasted. Whether it’s a bus scene or an artistic transformation, it all matters. It’s a constant build from start to finish. Starting with a little bang and exploding near the end. The film makes one wonder, how would you react if you had back to back to back traumatic events happen in a matter of weeks or even days. While not being done like a traditional comic book movie, there are events that take place that is more likely to happen in that realm rather than in reality. It also pays homage to the franchise from which it came with not only recognizable names but a classic scene we know. Again, we have to talk about the ending at some point after everyone sees it. So go see it so we can talk about it.

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Characters & Chemistry

Joaquin Phoenix (Arthur/Joker) is phenomenal. He stunned to the point that it felt as if he was the only person in the film. His laugh stands out in every scene as well as his chilling transformations and switches. The Joker is not an easy character to portray but he danced and laughed his way through it with ease. You felt the pain and understood the struggle even as he descended into villainy. Robert De Niro (Murray Franklin) and Brett Cullen ( Thomas Wayne) were great heels and contrast to Phoenix. They were rich, brash, and on the opposite end of the wealth and status spectrum. One he grew up idolizing then grew to despise and the other he never cared for or thought about. Frances Conroy (Penny Fleck) had touching scenes with Phoenix. The bond they have is the closest throughout the film and it’s an honest closeness. Zazie Beetz (Sophie Dumond) is sweet and Phoenix’s character likes the attention she gives him. Nevertheless, this isn’t a love story. Phoenix also has amazing chemistry with his surroundings. Everything is used to add to his character.

Joker releases everywhere October 4th, go see it twice.

Rating

4.5 out of 5

Runtime

2h 2m

Editors Note: 

No comic book related movie has ever in my opinion dug as deep into mental illness and the psyche of a character like Joker does. Joaquin really goes above and beyond to show just how devastating mental illness can be to the individual and the people around him/her. It is a serious and real issue that many ignore and this film will for sure bring the seriousness of the condition to light. Joker is a raw and eye opening film that delivers because of how dedicated Joaquin is to his work. The supporting cast, especially De Niro, are a nice balance to Joaquin’s brilliant performance. Joker is in no way your typical run of the mill comic book movie and do not go into this film thinking you are getting what you read in the comics. Enjoy this movie for what it is and in the end I think many will come away floored by it and it is a movie people will be talking about for quite some time. My hats off to DC and Warner Bros. for allowing Todd to make this film and seeing it through to the end. In a world where DC has been attacked for its “dark” comic book films, it is good to see DC not shying away from films like Joker.