Joker Movie Review : Joaquin Phoenix’s Best Work To Date?
Struggling to make people laugh in grim early-1980s Gotham City, the mentally ill street clown and failed stand-up comedian, Arthur Fleck / Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) , wears his smudgy makeup every day to eke out an existence. Mocked, bullied, and above all, marginalised, Fleck’s slippery grip on reality will pave the way for a gradual descent into a dark world of unrestrained violence, as a loaded revolver enters the picture offering the long-awaited liberation. Then, the medications stopped working, and troubled Arthur’s fierce hatred seems to be the only way out. Is the world prepared for the gloriously malevolent advent of the grinned super-villain, Joker?
A Sneak Peek Into “Joker”
In 1981, a man named Arthur Fleck –– an aspiring stand-up comedian –– worked as a clown-for-hire for a company called Ha-Ha’s. He was tasked with advertising a store in his clown attire by dancing and waving a sign that says “Everything Must Go” around.
While he was jumping and twirling the sign around, a group of punk teens who happened to pass through started to mock his clown shoes, and eventually thought it would be fun joke to snatch the sign Arthur was holding. Surely, Arthur ran after them in order to get his sign back so he could continue working, only to have his face smashed with the sign as soon as he entered an alley. The boys didn’t stop there however, even after Arthur had fallen down to the ground and curled up into a fetal position, they still proceed to mercilessly kick him until he was crying.
Gotham in 1981, was a city in the brink of chaos and destruction. The people of Gotham struggled with crime and unemployment, leaving segments of the population disenfranchised and impoverished. Arthur himself, was no different. Despite his dream of being a successful stand-up comedian, he had a hard time trying to come up with jokes that the public finds funny. As most of his jokes sometimes came off very dark and depressing.
On top of working a job that didn’t really pay well and having to support his ailing mother, Penny, his battle with his ongoing mental health issues didn’t really help matters. Arthur suffered from a medical disorder that caused him to laugh at inappropriate times, and thus, made him dependent on social services for medication as he couldn’t afford the pills with his salary from working as a clown.
At home, Arthur would sit and watch talk shows with host Murray Franklin with his mother while they ate dinner. His mother would sometimes ask him about his day, however, most of their conversation would always start and end with the mention of the letters that she had sent Thomas Wayne. She would constantly mention about how well Thomas Wayne treated their former employees, and since she used to work for the Wayne household, she believed that Thomas Wayne would definitely find a way to help Penny and Arthur from this poverty.
Arthur on the other hand, was only half listening as he fantasized about his neighbor who he met on the elevator after coming home from work. From their brief conversation in the elevator, he realized that she was different from the fact that she didn’t treat him like a weirdo like everyone did. Despite his awkwardness around her, she remained polite, and even funny in her replies to him.
After going through a couple scenarios in his mind on how he could talk to her again, Arthur finally decided that he would invite her to a stand-up comedy show that he was performing at. To this, she wholeheartedly agreed, and even seemed excited to go.
On the day of his performance, due to either Arthur being nervous or perhaps some other reason, he started off by laughing uncontrollably for quite a while before going into his jokes … which wasn’t very funny at all. Barely anyone was laughing. However Sophie, who held up her end of the deal, appeared in the audience, and seemed to be the only person who was genuinely laughing at Arthur’s jokes.
3 Words to Sum Up “Joker”
BRILLIANT, HEART RENDING, INTENSE
I must say, I’m quite surprised to be onto this Joker trend as quickly as I did. I mean, your girl has always been infamous for arriving –– fashionably, if I might say so myself –– late to reviews. Be it books, tv shows or movies, there’s a high chance that I’ll only go gaga over it months after everyone has done fangirling about it.
This time with Joker seems to be different however, as I’m currently here, fangirling with everyone else on just how amazing Joaquin Phoenix’s acting and portrayal of Joker was. I have heard of him before, however I must admit that his movies didn’t quite pique my interest…until now. These days, I’m honestly on a Joaquin Phoenix movie binge. So far, I’ve watched Joaquin’s Her and Irrational Man, and I must say, this man acted in some quiet interesting films.
Please note that there will be spoilers all over this review, you have been warned.
JOAQUIN PHOENIX PLAYS JOKER
I mean, you’ve probably already heard this so many times over the weeks that I’m quite sure I sound like a broken radio at this point, but heck it. I’m going to say it loud and proud : Joaquin Phoenix was absolutely fucking incredible in his portrayal of Joker.
I will be honest and say that I have never really been that invested in the DC world before. I guess that was mainly due to their
pretty shitty not so good movies and CGIs. However, after watching Joker, all I wanted to do was lock myself in my room for a day and binge watch all the batman movies while shoving my face with hot Cheetos. You get what I’m trying to say? Good movies do that to you –– making you want to know more about the characters, their origins, and in this case, making you want to know more of the actor as well.
For as long as I could remember, whenever I watch anything Batman related, it goes without question that Batman is the good guy and Joker is the bad guy. This is something that’s non-arguable, absolute. However, after watching Joker and how his was brought up to be, I find myself actually rooting for the supposed “bad guy” and –– twisted as is it –– actually wanting to see him succeed in his mission against the Waynes.
SIMPLE BUT COMPLEX
Had Joaquin Phoenix not starred in Joker, I believe this movie would have flopped. Big time.
The storyline to Joker was actually quite simple. It was a story about a child who was abused growing up, resulting in him being shunned and outcasted by the society, until eventually he decided to take control of his life and make it a life worth living.
By this summary alone, I don’t doubt that many would have decided to give this movie a pass. I mean, I certainly would have. However, due to Joaquin’s remarkable acting skills, he was able to flesh Joker out and transform him from a man who we probably wouldn’t even shed a tear for if he died, into someone who we can sympathize with and even care for.
Joaquin definitely delivered on the insanity level, however, he also managed to bring the naivety, innocence, and the childlike wonder out of Joker, which was unlike anything that has ever been portrayed before.
I truly believe that movie Joker, if we were to strip it bare off of Joaquin’s acting, would have been just another run-off-the-mill film that flopped before we even reached the climax.
Seeing Thomas Wayne from Arthur’s point of view, actually gave the viewers a very interesting and eye opening portrayal of the all loving and giving philanthropist billionaire that we have all come to know.
It’s understandable since a lot of the movies that’s related to Batman are usually from Bruce Wayne’s point of view that Bruce would idolize his father and make him out to be perfect. After watching Joker, it made me realize that these are all mostly from the worldview o Bruce Wayne and the people interacting with Bruce who describe his father.
When we look at it from the perspective of someone who was on the other side of that perfectly cut green grass and lavish mansion (read: poor), Thomas Wayne actually comes off as an absolute dick for even going as far as calling the poor people clowns. Arguably, this could have been the media portrayal of him inside the movie, or it could have been Arthur being an unreliable narrator, but I find it interesting to see that Thomas Wayne actually isn’t this all giving billionaire who worked tireless for the poor of Gotham as he is portrayed in other places.
A quarter way through the movie, Arthur met this single mother who happens to live in the same apartment building as he does. There was a spark of attraction, Arthur decided to follow his guts and acted on it. Bada bing bada boom. They started dating.
At the time, I found it weird that in the midst of Arthur battling his mental issues, taking care of his mother, going to work, that they would squeeze in a love interest in the middle of it all. I mean, it just seems so out of place and so sudden. However, as this is a movie, and in movies even unicorns can shit diamonds, I decided to go along with the plot.
It was not until much later that it was revealed to the viewers that Arthur’s relationship with his neighbor was actually all in his head. The whole relationship was really just a figment of his imagination and was never real.
Now this, opens up a whole another can of worms which begs the question of, just how much of the movie was real?
Because if he was imagining that whole relationship with his neighbor, how could we know that he’s not just imagining everything else in the movie as well?
One of the most discussed/asked questions was about the ending of Joker, where he was in an asylum being handcuffed and talking to a psychiatrist. In the end scene, Arthur seemed to have gained some weight compared to the start of the movie where he was stick thin. This leads some fan theories that maybe the end scene was set in the future, where Batman already exists and have Joker put in Arkham.
Not to mention, while Joker was in the room with the psychiatrist, he mentioned that he thought of something funny. When asked by the psychiatrist, he replied with how the psychiatrist wouldn’t understand. This was shown with the constant flashback of Bruce Wayne’s parents being dead on the ground with little Bruce standing before his dead parents. Basing on this, some fans also mentioned the possibilities of Arthur discovering that Batman is Bruce Wayne and that he created Batman the day Arthur became the Joker.
There are a lot of the small things that Arthur does throughout the movie that has fans speculating if it could mean something more.
From the most obvious, his laugh. It was said that Arthur has different laughs and that his laughs change as Arthur lost more grip on his mental state. His laugh in the beginning of the movie when he was reprimanded by a boy’s mother from playing with him in the bus, was a laugh accompanied with a chocking sound, which resulted from his mental illness and was theorized to actually bring him pain.
And then we have another laugh halfway throughout the movie where Arthur was spectating a stand-up comedy show and he would laugh at random intervals in the things that he thought the public found funny. This was shrill and loud.
Lastly, near the end of the movie, where Arthur was invited onto the Murray Franklin’s talkshow and he would laugh like how he did in the beginning of the movie, however, this time, he seems to actually enjoy it instead of trying to fight it.
Another one that was mentioned was about his smoking. Some fans mentioned about how in one scene Arthur doesn’t seem to be smoking, however on the next scene, we see him holding a half lit cigarette out of nowhere. While this might have been just a mistake on the movie production part, some also thought that this shows just how much of an unreliable narrator Arthur was. With how constant he lost grip with what’s real and what’s in his head.
Whew. I truly hope that I did Joker justice with this review. As this movie is a quite heavy one and it’s obviously impossible for me to go into each and every single points, flaws, and fan theories because we’ll be here all day if I do.
Joker was absolutely a joy to watch. I really like how the movie industry is getting more open to the idea of putting spotlight on mental health issues and are not afraid to showcase just how debilitating and isolating mental illness are.
I would 100% recommend this movie for those of you who haven’t had the chance to watch it. Joker was such a fun ride. Who would have thought that I would be able to sympathize and even care for someone who I have thought was insanely evil all my life?
With that said, we also need to give the props to Joaquin Phoenix. I honestly belief that without him, this entire movie would have been flippity floppity failure. His acting skills was so beyond anything that I’ve ever seen before that he made watching a man slowly descend into insanity this thrilling and entertaining to watch.
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