Release: 2019 Director: Todd Phillips
I want to be very upfront about how I feel about Joker. The film itself has a lot to say about a multitude of topics, ranging from values of the class system to how society should view those with disabilities. What it does not do is glorify violence. We should not see Arthur Fleck as a sympathetic character that does actions for the betterment of himself and in turn what someone could do to society outside of the film. That is silly. No, this is about how circumstances on a simple man could turn him from a scared and timid person into the clown prince of crime. And this might actually be one of the best films of the year, if not this decade.
Arthur Fleck is a man with dreams of being a comedian. He is shy and timid though, not knowing what to do with himself. He has a condition where he bursts into laughter when the situation is not funny and can not control himself. People judge him constantly for this, and he just has to get through the day without causing a scene. The only time he is truly comfortable is when he puts on his clown make-up for work and can make people happy. That is until people, and more importantly society, beat him down from trying to express that. But he doesn’t hate people for that, in fact he isn’t even a mad person himself. He wants to make people happy, even when life tells him that he isn’t funny.
This is one of the smartest movies I have ever seen. Which makes it really hard to talk about, since at any given time you really don’t know where the story is taking you. You might have an idea about the next sequence of events, but then a curve balls comes and you are having to rethink things. Or when you thought the twist just happened but really it didn’t so now it’s back to the drawing board. It keeps you guessing throughout and thus you are engaged as an audience. To accomplish this it needed so many moving parts and somehow they all came together.
Right away the movie hinges on the performance of Joaquin Phoenix. From the very first shot of him to the last second, he holds the screen hostage. You are mesmerized by him, the details in his acting are exquisite. He clearly studied how to portray someone with really emotional and physical problems and that attention to the character shines through in a performance that I believe is Oscar worthy.
There are so many moments in this that blow me away. You can be watching a singular scene and not know the outcome of just the few minutes you are watching. It could go in so many different ways and yet you need to keep watching to find out. The writing in this is spot on and deserves your attention. What is even more incredible is that the film understands that it lives in a comic book world without sacrificing the realism of the main character. The world around the Joker is insane while the inner conflicts he deals with are very real, someone making him the most understandable person in a society that is crazier than he is. You already know the outcome of the movie, or so you will think, is that Joker will become the villain we know him to be while also hoping that he can overcome his faults. That is impeccable storytelling and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout.
This is my new favorite movie of the year. While I can only say that with two months left, nothing else has made me sit down after a viewing this year and think about all the tiny details that the movie gives you. From the very beginning you are hooked, and it doesn’t let go with a beautiful sense pacing and character work that I haven’t seen this year. It can be disturbing by the realism it presents but at the same time you should know what you’re getting yourself into when walking into a Joker movie. I really hope they do more with this iteration of Joker because I would love to see Joaquin Phoenix laugh till he hurts again and again. Just like the true nature of insanity.