A Hit that's No Joke. A new darker taken on Gotham
Updated: Feb 3
“What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash?”
Joker (2019) paints a new dark Gotham where the poor live in a dog-eat-dog world, while the rich get richer. The film shows how a man can turn to violence after a few bad days in an already bad life. Overall, this film succeeds in every way from Joaquin Phoenix’s stellar performance to the cinematography.
The film begins with Arthur Fleck happily dancing as a sign spinner before the overbearing tone comes rushing forward as he is jumped and left crying alone in a dark alley. This opening is incredibly effective as it dashes away any hope of a happy, normal superhero flick. Throughout the film, there are only a few moments of levity but the sense of dread makes it feel wrong to laugh, but viewers with a darker sense of humor may grow to feel it is a comedy by the end much like the main character does. While the story is superb on its own, anyone expecting a comic book movie or comic Joker will be severely disappointed, this is a new character with only the name, chaotic nature, and laugh of the Jokers of the past.
Every part of the film feels meticulously planned and thought out to make Arthur’s descent into madness make sense and be as beautifully shot, yet uncomfortable to watch as possible. No line of dialogue is wasted or problem forgotten as he and Gotham’s poor turn against the system. By the end of the movie the plotlines have all come together for a fantastic climax that leaves you emotionally unsure yet satisfied with the story.
Despite taking place in somewhere around the late 70’s the story feels scarily familiar to today with the new rise of socialism and movements like #metoo disillusioning the working class with the establishment. There’s also an underlying message on mental health awareness for outcasts that correlates to the current violence outbreaks carried out by white male loners. Funnily, it also correlates to the recent Twitter trend of people calling themselves clowns.
Joaquin’s performance beautifully encapsulates the character as he flawlessly sells Arthur throughout every single scene. His uncontrollable laugh is haunting and every bit as memorable as Heath Ledger’s. Despite being much less mysterious and evil than his predecessors he will still undoubtedly be known as one of the best Jokers ever. You will definitely be seeing him this Oscar season.
If you can handle violence and uncomfort for the sake of story and/or are a fan of the character, Joker is a must see movie with stellar acting and writing and a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat.