Synopsis: In Gotham City, mentally-troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: “The Joker”.
Review: I have to admit. That I was a little reluctant to see this film. In part because I was unsure about seeing a movie that is entirely centered on the origin story of such an iconic villain. But I was also reluctant due to the fact that I was a little unsure about Joaquin Phoenix in the titular role. Especially given how much his predecessor Jared Leto messed it up.
Thankfully. I was wrong.
The film focuses on Arthur Fleck, who has a mental illness, which causes him to burst out into random laughter even when he isn’t feeling amused. From the very first moments, we are vying for Arthur as we see his struggle to fit into a society that doesn’t want him or even want to try and understand him. The film starts pretty much from the moment where Arthur, who is working as a clown, gets beaten up by some street kids and almost loses his job because of it. From that point on we begin to see Arthur’s struggle as he gets the minimum amount of help he needs from social services, who are very under-resourced. But he is also supporting his sick mother who also has a mental illness and believes that Arthur is a child she had with Thomas Wayne. The father of future Batman Bruce Wayne.
It is through the relationships with his mother and a series of hard knocks that we see Arthur gradually lose any semblance of sanity that he has, which leads him to reveal himself very publically as The Joker.
The film also acts as the perfect setup for a new Batman franchise in that it sets up the beginnings of Bruce Wayne’s journey to becoming Batman.
Joaquin Phoenix puts in a fantastic performance as Arthur Fleck/Joker and gradually peels the layers away as his character descends into madness. Robert De Niro is brilliant as talk show host Murray Franklin, who is a constant throughout the film as he comments on the world of Gotham but also becomes a target for Fleck. Pretty much all the performances in this film are highly nuanced and layered.
‘Joker’ is not a film that you can consider easy viewing in that it manages to transcend the character’s comic book origins by making some very strong political statements about the lack of social care and help for people with mental illnesses. But while doing all of that it manages to give us a really compelling look at the origins of the Joker and at various points has the audience wanting to side with him. Especially given how despicable and apathetic most the other characters are.
Overall. This is a really powerful film, which is definitely worthy of some awards.
- CGI & Stunts9.5
- Incidental Music9.6