Directed By : Todd Phillips
Written By : Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
Starring : Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Frances Conroy, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen Brian Tyree Henry, Marc Maron, Dante Pereira-Olson, Douglas Hodge, Sharon Washington.
The concept of having an origin story for our favorite clown prince of crime was one that has heavily lambasted by fans and purists alike.
The Joker’s appeal was always his mysterious, borderline non-existent origin, and the idea of giving him his own movie that was so far attached from his usual entanglements with the Caped Crusader was such a daunting proposition, and an exciting one…
Enter Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur Fleck…
Joker is a film that has a bone to pick with its audience, it sets out to send out a message to our society by means of gaslighting and anarchy, two very familiar themes that’s often associated with the character. But what both Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Phillips does to differentiate this version – is to wrap the film in an acidic emotional blanket.
In The Dark Knight, we get to learn about how Heath Ledger’s Joker views this world, in Joker – we got to learn about how Phoenix’s Joker feels about this world – and that is where the film mostly succeeds in.
It’s an emotional character study, and also a deep dive into his psychosis – How did he get this way? Why does do the things he does? This is when the film is at its most interesting – when it’s about Arthur Fleck and his tragic descent into darkness.
Which is why the film so heavily relies on Phoenix’s ability to paint the entire screen full of misery and anger. The latter is a breath of fresh air, as Joaquin Phoenix’s recent acting ventures were mostly comprised of him taking on gloomy, yet agonizingly flat characters. Arthur’s pain is deafening, it’s the link that enables the audience to somewhat sympathize with this maniacal clown-faced psychopath – remove Phoenix from the equation, then what you get is a mediocre pseudo remake of both Taxi Driver and King of Comedy.
The third act however is where its true intentions are revealed….
In its first two acts, the film’s narrative dedicated itself to gaslight and enrage Arthur Fleck as he slowly succumbs to his darkness, and becomes the Joker. But in the last act of the film, the cameras turn to us, and antagonizes the audience. It insinuates that we are to blame for Arthur’s destruction.
For the most part it’s somewhat compelling, but unfortunately the social commentary became way too heavy handed towards the end, and you can almost hear director Todd Phillips’ disdain towards ‘PC’ culture peering through the curtains. Obviously, this by no means sunk the film, but it’s definitely a detriment to the entire narrative and unfortunately a slight stain in Joaquin Phoenix’s masterful performance.
Joaquin Phoenix’s terrorizing performance as the clown prince of crime saves Joker from becoming nothing but a lousy rip-off of Taxi Driver.