After the much-anticipated film depicting the origin of the Prince of Crime, “Joker” it does not fail to shock the audience. Starring as the titular character, Joaquin Phoenix delivers a disturbingly profound performance, following comparable toHeath Ledger’s Oscar-winning 2008 role as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s“Dark Night”.
“Joker” director, Todd Phillips, paints the picture of an aspiring comedian with a day job as a street clown. Arthur Fleck lives with his mother in a broken-down apartment in the city of Gotham. Struggling with life’s difficulties, bullied and isolated, Fleck slowly turns into the villain that we are all familiar with.
The film shines a light on topics such as mental illness, isolation, and revenge.These characteristics resemble Martin Scorsese’s 1976 “Taxi Driver” starring Robert Deniro. Deniro, coincidentally, also stars in Joker, delivering a solid performance playing Murray Franklin, a successful comedy talk show host, and Fleck’s idol.
One of the most unsettling parts of the Joker’s character is his laugh. We have seen many actors portray it in various ways, but Phoenix’s is something different. Fleck has a psychological disorder causing him to break out in hysterical laughter at the most random moments during his day. Throughout the film, Fleck chillingly chuckles for long periods of time, and then instantly stops, returning to a serious face.While in the theater, you can sense the terror the whole audience is feeling as Fleck’s facetious humor fills the room.
There is no doubt that Phoenix was committed to the role. Alongside the laughter, he reportedly lost 52 pounds to fit the target weight set by Phillips. It was an interesting director’s choice that ended up being perfect for the character.
Another great addition to the character by Phoenix is the improvised dancing in the film. Throughout “Joker”, Fleck starts gracefully waltzing in a mischievous way that always keeps the audience on the edge of their seat.
While I personally loved the movie, I can very well understand why it is controversial, critically and politically.
With its excessively violent scenes, intense twists and Phoenix’s perplexing performance, the FBI and the US Military warned the nation about potential shootings during the opening screening of the film. With it being based on a lonely man who gets his revenge on society, people have been making threats online about attacking the theaters playing the movie. After the 2012 shooting during the screening of the last Batman movie, “The Dark Night Rises”, where 12 people were killed, theaters checked bags before people entered the theater during Joker’s opening night.
As for Phoenix’s performance vs Ledger’s, I am extremely conflicted. Ledger’s messy makeup, purple suit, and eerie scars across his mouth changed the depiction of the villain forever. While I could go on and on comparing Phoenix’s performance to Ledger’s they both thrive in different ways. One is the Joker and one is Arthur Fleck. In “The Dark Night”, Ledger is playing the Prince of Crime in at the peak of his criminal career whereas in “Joker” Phoenix is playing Fleck who finally turns into the Joker. In my opinion, they both were dedicated and succeeded with their roles, but I can’t find myself deciding which is “better” because they are not the same character.
Joker has already drawn in more than $700 million with a relatively small budget of $55 million. Unlike many other 2019 moneymakers such as Avengers Endgame and John Wick 3, Joker has far fewer intense action scenes in the film, making the box office number particularly impressive.
Overall, “Joker” is a must-see. Whether or not you like it or hate it in the end, it is an experience worth having. It makes you think for hours after you watch it, which is something very rare with a movie.