For most of the year the movie I was looking forward to most was Joker. When a famous actor – especially a character actor such as Joaquin Phoenix – stars in the origin story of one of the best villains of all time you know it will be great. You know it will also be cringe worthy – the director admitted to borrowing from Taxi Driver after all. As if that is not reason enough to watch it Joker also stars Robert De Niro (from aforementioned Taxi Driver and of course The Godfather), Zazie Beetz (Deadpool 2) and Brett Bullen (Lost and Person of Interest).
So what is Joker all about?
As the origin story for the Joker the movie depicts the slow mental degradation of Arthur Fleck. The film I set in 1981 in Gotham City as it is slowly decaying. Arthur is failing at everything, he is a former inmate of a psychiatric ward, he has a lousy job as a clown, no social life and no prospects. Arthur does appear to be self-conscious about his predicament. His continued degradation is not without outside influence.
As Arthur has an uncontrollable laughing tick he is frequently abused – verbally and physically. Every occasion is the impetus for further isolation. His only rays in his life are his mother, TV comedian Murray Franklin and the woman living down the hall – Sophie. Sadly, it is when all three rays stop shining so does Arthur. His mother is verbally abusive, yet he remains devoted to her. It is when Arthur discovers he is adopted and owes his tick to childhood abuse that he starts his downward spiral.
But the incidents keep on stacking. Arthur is fired from job as a clown after a revolver drops out of his trousers in a children’s hospital. He also ends up shooting three Wayne employees in self defense, but is instead vilified on TV as murderer wearing a mask. The man he admirers – Murray Franklin ends up making fun of him on TV after a botched stand-up act. Each time Arthur tries to compensate failure by remembering the good times. It is when he realizes his relationship with Sophie was imaginary that the last visage of sanity departs him. In Gotham city there is no place for Arthur Fleck, but there is for Joker.
Joker is difficult to watch
Joker is a hard movie to watch. Arthur does a number of embarrassing things – laughing uncontrollably foremost. The entire 2 hours watch can be best described as cringe worthy – except for the last act. During the act Arthur truly becomes the Joker – the performance of Joaquin Phoenix changes. He portrays Joker a man who is eminently sure of himself. Every bad joke, pun or ill thought now feeds his ego.
As I said before this movie depicts a slow decay into insanity. However, it is when the audience realizes some of the good parts of Arthur’s life are imaginary that we know we have been duped. The decay runs much deeper than we ourselves thought, it makes you doubt yourself. Everybody’s life has their ups and downs, when it is down we tend to pretend it is better in order to feel better. If that protection is ruined – who know what might happen. Joker as such hits below the belt.
Now for those who have yet to see the Joker I will give a warning. This movie is not The Dark Knight or Suicide Squad. Many in the audience who I was with thought it was boring. They did not appreciate the slower pace at which the life and situation of Arthur was set up. Joker is movie that I am sure will divide audiences for years to come. That said, actor Joaquin Phoenix has made a performance worthy of an Oscar – and I don’t say that every time.