Joker (Film Review)

Oscar Rendon | St. Louis, MO | October 5th, 2019

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Joker stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, and directed by Todd Phillips. Arthur Fleck has been an outcast all his life, in a heightened state of chaos in the city of Gotham he will fall into the depths of madness and evil as the man becomes a symbol. This story is a dark reimagining of the popular and iconic DC character The Joker.


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Let’s talk about Arthur, shall we? Joker (2019) is a darker look into the mind of the Clown Prince of Crime in a heightened world bound by the iconography of DC Comics especially that of Batman. While the film never discloses the era the film takes place we can safely assume it takes place in the late 70’s early 80’s. The film is surrounded in controversy as it has sparked debate about the films subject matter and while we won’t let that affect this review we will say that going into the film we had expectations about the film with the hype or amount of negative press that has surrounded it and we can say.. what is all the uproar about? (For an in-depth conversation on this film please listen to this BONUS Episode of the ‘Geeks of the Galaxy’ Podcast link at the bottom of the page). While the tone of the film was dark (as promised), disturbing (as promised) and has elements of society in the real world it wasn’t any worse than the programming we see on TV every day. We sat in the theater waiting for when the film would become SO disturbing that it was hard to watch and it never really came. I think the media coverage and other news/media outlets who had seen early screenings of the film had extremely exaggerated the contents of the film. After watching the film and walking out of the theater a friend of mine and I began talking and while the film is not enjoyable because of the bleak tone and Joaquin Phoenix’ haunting portrayal of the Joker, it was a brilliantly executed film.


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The way the film was shot is reminiscent of early 80’s cinema and how back then the camera was almost another character and how it always focused on the characters. The film is visually stunning and the city of Gotham is another character, it really set the tone for the film as far as how bleak and chaotic this world is and without too much exposition we get a sense of us vs them, the poor vs the rich. All of these elements contribute to Arthurs character arc that eventually lead him to become “Joker”. A lot of the characters introduced in the film have very little screen time and we have to take Arthur’s view of them for what it is, Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin a late night TV host really felt like a Jimmy Kimmel/Stephen Colbert personality. Now without giving anything away, the Batman elements are felt and keep the film somehow lighter than if this weren’t a comic book character and movie, just when you think you have it figured out the writers and Phillips brilliantly pull the rug from underneath us and keep us on our toes. Other people are in the film but this is truly Joaquin’s movie as he is in every frame of the film. What can we say about Joaquin Phoenix that people don’t already know, he dove head first into this role of Arthur Fleck/The Joker and as I stated before gives us a haunting look into how someone could become the Joker. Joaquin is practically invisible and for the entirety of the film I am watching Arthur, from the very beginning we see him broken but we root for him as an underdog and I think what the media took as controversial I look as a cautionary tale but but not as Arthur but as the people who created him and broke him beyond repair. People are worried about us becoming Arthur but they never mention the characters who beat him down, I think that is what Todd Phillips was going for. No matter which way you look at it what we’re seeing is a reflection of society from all aspects not just from the mentally ill but from those who stand by and let the bad things happen. Overall, everything from the writing, cinematography and acting is phenomenal. Joaquin Phoenix delivers a compelling performance that could rival the late Heath Ledgar’s from The Dark Knight. I can already hear the award season buzz for this film in a few short months.


The Grade

A