Here’s our review for ‘Joker’, which stars Joaquin Phoenix and lands in theaters nationwide on Friday, October 4…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
When ‘Joker’ was first announced there were more than a few comic book purists who scoffed at the idea of an origin film for Batman’s greatest villain.
It’s obviously difficult to imagine a world where the Joker exists yet Batman is nowhere to be found but when it comes to the ‘Clown Prince of Crime’, what always made him so terrifying was not knowing exactly what created this psychopathic monster.
Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in ‘The Dark Knight’ was a gold standard example of this philosophy as he rattled off several different reasons why he had scars marring his face. Chances are none of them were true or perhaps bits and pieces of all of those stories were true but the Joker was that much scarier because we never really learned what made him tick.
Well, I’m happy to report after watching ‘Joker’ — which opens in theaters nationwide on Friday, Oct. 4 — those concerns have been put to rest.
The new film starring Joaquin Phoenix with Todd Philipps directing, really is as good as advertised after the movie received a massive standing ovation when it first debuted earlier this year. This is absolutely not your typical comic book fare — in fact it could be argued that nothing even comes close to what unfolds over the course of two hours in this movie.
Phoenix steals the show as expected and that’s definitely needed considering the dark and dour material that he dives into throughout the course of this movie. As much as his character Arthur Fleck says to put on a happy face during this film, chances are you’ll leave the theater haunted by what you’ve just witnessed.
The deconstruction of a troubled man, who is barely hanging on when we first meet him, is a troubling portrait of the indifference so many people feel and it’s tough to watch at moments but ultimately worth your trip to the theater.
It’s an origin story that gives you answers yet still leaves you with questions when it’s finished and that might be the best possible way for the Joker to find his maniacal smile.
With that said, let’s get into our full review of ‘Joker’…
Arthur Fleck isn’t like everybody else.
His job is to make people smile as a professional clown but very rarely does he ever feel any joy of his own. The torrential laughs that cascade from his mouth aren’t washed in humor but rather pain and sadness.
He lives at home with his mother, who he cares for daily, and his conversations with the rest of the world are awkward at best.
But Arthur continuously tries to find his place in the world by trying to make people laugh while constantly being reminded that he doesn’t really matter. Arthur decides to finally take matters into his own hands and force people to notice him — with deadly consequences.
Going any further than that would spoil the plot but based on the trailers that are out there, it’s not that difficult to predict what’s happening with Arthur Fleck over the course of this movie as he travels down a road that eventually leads him to Joker.
ACTING, DIRECTING AND SCRIPT
First things first — Joaquin Phoenix will absolutely get nominated for an Oscar and he might be the odds on favorite to take home that gold statue as the second person to play Joker (Heath Ledger won it posthumously).
A lot of this movie takes place without Arthur saying a word, which requires Phoenix to contort his face and body to convey what exactly is happening in those scenes. The physical drama that Phoenix displays is unlike perhaps anything you’ve ever seen before. Arthur is a tortured man trapped in his own head and Phoenix captures it rather brilliantly.
This is a showcase performance for Phoenix and he will undoubtedly — and deservedly — get the bulk of the attention surrounding ‘Joker’.
That said there are some strong performances from Robert DeNiro and Zazie Beetz, who star along Phoenix in this film. DeNiro is one of the world’s greatest actors but there’s nothing phoned in about his portrayal of a smug late night talk show host. As for Beetz, she’s soft-spoken yet instrumental to the core of this film.
Phillips also deserves a nod for a well-directed film that shows the underbelly of old Gotham City. Phililips doesn’t shy away from showing the dark, damp corners where Arthur Fleck is born and the Joker raised.
The script is strong enough, although this isn’t the greatest story ever told by any means because with a different actor or director in charge of this movie, it could easily go from must see to feel free to miss.
WHAT’S WRONG WITH THE MOVIE?
‘Joker’ is a case study of one man’s descent from madness to mayhem (as the headline says) but the film doesn’t have a great story as its backbone as much as it’s built around a compelling character.
Now there’s obviously nothing wrong with that but that goes back to the criticism about the script because ‘Joker’ doesn’t reinvent the wheel for that part of the movie — it’s the execution by Phoenix and Phillips that are unlike anything else out in the world today.
Also it must be stated that this film is a tough watch, not for the faint of heart, especially when witnessing the cruelty and indifference that makes up so much of Arthur’s world. ‘Joker’ probably isn’t the movie you’re going to go back and watch again and again like you might ‘Avengers: Endgame’ but this film will stick with you just as long if not longer when you really start diving into Arthur’s psyche.
There’s a lot of hype surrounding ‘Joker’ and most of it is justified.
Joaquin Phoenix is that good. Watching his transformation into the Joker is absolutely worth the price of admission. This isn’t a movie predicated on action, stunts or effects like you’ll find in most comic book films. This is a deep dive into one man’s fractured psyche that will leave you shaken when it’s over.
‘Joker’ gets four out of five on the Skolnick Scale: