Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix are bringing out a different shade of color for the film Joker. Is this truly worth the hype or will the film be another disappointment for DC Comics? Read up on my Joker review and find out.
IMHO, the film deserved the praise it garnered at a recent film festival abroad. The movie comes out strong with symetry and good-looking albeit dark visuals. I have to hand it to the creative team for finding a way to create a good balance between a film with dark themes and imagery while at the same time offering winks and nods to the legion of Batman fans who will catch the film.
Mind you though, this isn’t the Joker we are familiar with. It’s not the Jack Nicholson Joker nor is it the late Heath Ledger’s Joker. But its in the same pedigree or dare I say even a notch above. His
Joaquin Phoenix delivers an outstanding performance as Arthur Fleck. As Fleck, he’s a good guy who gets crushed by the grim world in which he lives in. He has a deadend job as a clown performer who frequently gets beaten up, he has a condition where he laughs uncontrollably when he’s getting anxious or stressed out. He’s a victim of domestic abuse by both his mother and her boyfriend. Yet throughout all that he remains “happy”. Philips painstakingly pushes viewers into the life of one Arthur Fleck to understand what led him to become the clown criminal. This is why there are some viewers who think this dragged the movie on, but for me, these small nuances helped craft the movie to an excellent state. It’s like a really good kare-kare, one with all the nice and high-quality ingredients put in.
There are also a few scenes in the movie where Phoenix does the traditional Joker laugh and you can see him in pain when he does that. Not just as acting it, it feels real. Like he was actually choking as he does this maniacal laugh. He’s that good.
Speaking of Kare-Kare, the bagoong here is connecting the film to the Batman-lore. That’s deliciously done as well by connecting Fleck with Thomas Wayne and subsequently Bruce Wayne. I won’t go into spoiler territory but if you liked what the previous hour or so of the Joker has offered, then this would blow your mind. If you’re already hating on the film, then this will make you hate it even more.
You Talking to me?
The film explores mental health and the “woke” culture that’s prevalent these days. Phoenix as Fleck seems normal and OK and then erupts as one bad day after another drags him down a path he no longer can get back out. Mental health and the lack of treatment for those afflicted to also plays a crucial role for this movie. Travis from Taxi Driver kinda gets paid tribute too like that scene with Arthur in his underwear playing with this gun that was given to him early on in the story.
I also have to go and tip my hat to the visual treatments. visual effects and cinematography for the film. Take a look at the moments for the life of Fleck in the first act of the movie. It’s dark and gloomy and depressing; and yet this is the “happy” and “sane” version of Arthur Fleck.
Then we fast forward towards the third act, the one where he goes loose. It’s the same street, its’ brighter and “happier” looking and yet, this is when fans of the character know when chaos would erupt.
Still on the subject of symmetry, note how pronounced the scenes are when he’s going up and its darker than usual versus when he goes down that same set of stairs in his Joker makeup. He’s going down in a new life versus him going up those flights to his mundane life.
Robert DeNiro here is a class act. He could have just phoned the performance in this one but he too gives a great performance in those few precious minutes we see him on screen. There’s also a reason why Deniro was here in this movie. For one, the Joker movie pays homage in some way to Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro’s “King of Comedy”. You could actually see that the movie borrowed some elements from that film as well as DeNiro’s “Taxi Driver”.
Please don’t expect too much action in this flick too as its more of the superhero version of “Requiem for a Dream” or even “King of Comedy” more than Justice League. At least do me the favor of going to the cinema with that mindset rather than looking at it like a casual superhero/ comic book movie.
Also there’s hardcore controversy surrounding the film and its use of violence to move the story forward. It’s violent and dark yes, but I don’t really see anyway it could incite a bloody riot. There’s just so little message that could viewers to burn stores and attack the rich. If anything, it touches of the subject of how society and a democracy is making the poor poorer and the rich a little more richer.
Joker Review – Verdict
Give Phoenix his Oscar award already. Do keep an open mind about the movie but if you don’t like it, that’s perfectly fine. I didn’t like dark movies like Requiem for a Dream when I was in college. That shit gave me nightmares actually but it aged well with me. That’s just me. Hope you give the film a chance too.
Also, the film is very heavy. It’s realistic and gritty and very close to home. He speaks volumes to us, even for me, and that was one thing that makes this such a screen gem.
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