Joker, directed by Todd Phillips, stars Joaquin Phoenix as Arthur Fleck: a man with numerous mental health conditions who is constantly searching for a reason to be happy or someone who can make him happy.
I’m not going to try and subvert your expectations with this review. I love Joker. It might be my favorite movie of 2019 and one of my favorites of the last decade. That being said, Joker is a complicated film. I saw the movie last Thursday night and knew that I would need a second viewing before I could give a serous review of what I’d seen.
My hesitation had nothing to do with the films overall construction. The cinematography is stunning.This may sound ridiculous but Joker manages to make the exterior of cop cars and the cold concrete of Gotham City look absolutely beautiful. Todd Phillip’s over the shoulder shots and closeups also make for an incredibly claustrophobic viewing experience that makes the viewer feel as though they are in Arthur’s increasingly unstable reach, and as the film progresses these shots only increase the tension of every scene where we know everything Arthur’s counterparts don’t.
The score in this film is haunting. Hildur Guonadottir fills every scene with a sense of total dread but also a building anticipation for Arthur’s inevitable dive into darkness as the Clown Prince. There isn’t one moment of the film where the score lets your emotions rest as an audience member. Even if Arthur is just walking down the street, the score tells you that anger and resentment are building inside of him and the city, alike.
Joaquin Phoenix should win every award for this performance…that’s all I’m giving you on him. You need to see this film just so you know why he’s going to sweep award’s season.
So, all I’ve done is compliment this film. Where is the complicated nature I hinted at? Well, this movie is for mature audiences. It’s rated R for a reason. But it’s also for mature audiences in a sense that it takes one of the most evil and notorious villains of all time and asks the audience if we can feel sorry for him. Arthur’s means of showing society its faults are wrong, but when you see how that society treats him, you are left wondering if he at least has a point. I’m not even saying he does. The film shows the audience an extreme of each side of the spectrum to make its point, but it lands enough to at least consider sympathizing with Arthur’s slow-burn turn to the Joker.
Joker gets a big 10 out of 10 with me. The film looks beautifully grimy, sounds horrific, is acted tremendously well, and asks the audience to really think and pay attention. I hope we get more films like this in the future. Go see Joker.
Image via Geek Alerts