To begin the month of October, Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix gave the world their take on a villain from the DC Universe that is so psychotic, so monstrous, that it is scary (perfect fit if you ask me). That is right, dear reader, we are going to be talking about “Joker.”
To start, let it be said that this film is not for everyone. This movie has parts that may leave people uncomfortable or may cause a panic attack due to its over-the-top scenes. If you are suffering from a mental illness that leaves you sensitive to any extreme situations or have any history of uncontrollable anger, do not see this movie.
With that said, “Joker” released on Oct. 4 stars Joaquin Phoenix as the clown prince of crime himself. The movie was also directed by Todd Phillips who also co-wrote with “The Fighter’s,” Scott Silver. This film premiered at the Venice International Film Festival back in August and won the Golden Lion Award and also had outstanding reviews from critics in the following weeks after the awarding ceremony.
As of right now, the film has brought in an estimated $39.9 million dollars, domestic, after its opening weekend with a surprisingly low score of 69% on Rotten Tomatoes and a score of 58 on Metacritic. This surprised many people who were very excited to see this movie drop, but from the look of the box office haul, did not discourage them from going to the theaters and seeing it themselves.
The first great thing about this movie is the amazing performance given by Hollywood veteran, Joaquin Phoenix, and how he made the character his own. Phoenix is known for being quite picky with his films, and I like to believe he looked at the script and saw an opportunity to further establish himself as an artist who can take on a pre-established character make it his own.
In the opening scene alone, Phoenix is able to convey the sadness he is supposed to hide behind a smile in order to survive in the world and it is a big motif in the overall story. The fact that Phoenix is able to portray this overarching theme that is supposed to take the entire runtime in the movie in just the first few minutes is extraordinary and shows the viewer that he knows what he is doing.
Another great thing about this film is how good looking it is. All the credit must be given to the cinematographer, Lawrence Sher who had some unlikely credits like “Paul” (2011) and “The Hangover” trilogy. Through the carnage and chaos, this movie will amaze the viewer with how Gotham can look on the outside with the madness running on the inside.
Before moving onto the negative aspects of the movie, one final thing that needs attention is the writing and how well it flows from beginning to end. At the end of the day, what makes a movie memorable is the story it presents to the viewer and how their intrigue will take them through the story and carry them till the end and this film does just that. From the start of the movie, Phillips and Phoenix have the viewer locked in and ready to present them with a story they have known of but have never known.
From the very beginning, the viewer is brought into the world of Gotham through the eyes of the monster who will take it down and show his life as Arthur Fleck and his descent into the mind of The Joker. The way they are able to show this descent from the first scene to the last is expertly done.
There were some negatives with the film. The editing was sporadic and awkward at certain times. The shot composition was just not put together all that well in some scenes and needed some tuning before actually going into theaters. There were scenes that held onto characters for too long.
Another element to touch on was the pretentious feeling that was given off by the performance and the story and how some felt that the film took itself too seriously. Not to be mistaken, there are some scenes where Arthur is dancing to symbolize this sense of control or says the famous line, “I thought I was living in a drama...I’m living in a comedy…,” and that can be seen as pretentious and too serious but that is the point.
These filmmakers took this movie seriously and the story they are telling the viewer is a serious piece of art to them. In the end, this film was professionally written and well performed and is worth the watch. All mental health issues permitted, and should be talked about. Not all writers and directors take the chance to take a property and give the viewer a story in their own unique way that they have never seen before. Take some time out of the “midterms season” to give it a look.