Let’s just say that this clown doesn’t give you much to laugh about.
The city of Gotham is tethering on the edge of becoming a place rife with darkness and despair, as tensions run high and the air is static with the possibility of an uprising. Refusing to acknowledge the shadows of the city, when he has his own to keep at bay, is Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix). Despite suffering from a disorder that makes him laugh at mostly awkward and inappropriate times – as well as causing him severe pain, Arthur keeps his head high and his smile wide.
His dream is to be a comedian, holding on to his mothers words that he was born to bring joy and laughter to people’s lives. Until he makes it in the big time, he works as a clown for hire. Kind-hearted and well-meaning, life unfairly keeps choosing to push Arthur down. His uncaring workplace, mean colleagues, to what he thought he knew about his mother Penny and their life, and even strangers on the subway after he’s had a hard day.
No matter how many times Arthur gets knocked down, he keeps rising. But people can only take so much, and one day, even the biggest joker is bound to wipe the smile from his face.
What my cinema companion said:
Literally, as it started: “Why did I want to see this? Joker has always scared the crap out of me!”
Post Movie: “That was perfect. I really really enjoyed that. Wow. Perfect”
This movie wasn’t at all as I expected.
Joaquin Phoenix as the Joker is an unexpected genius that none of us thought we needed. He played Arthur and his transition into the tyrant we all know and loath (but really love) incredibly well, and stirred up sympathy for a character we know to be the worst kinds of diabolical.
I thoroughly enjoyed the depiction of madness laced throughout the movie both within the protagonist and those around him, from the city to its inhabitants, and their thirst for violence. Though seemingly normal, the actions from everyone within the movie were insane – wether it was bothering someone on the subway, to pulling out a gun in a public place, to making fun of someone on television. It’s all mad. It begged the question of whether Arthur’s insanity could be viewed as normal in such a place as Gotham.
Though the Wayne’s were mentioned, seen, and a part of the storyline as a whole – I appreciated that they felt like an afterthought, as this is first and foremost Arthur’s story.
Lastly – even though it has probably ruined one of my favourite songs for the next year – the use of Frank Sinatra’s That’s Life as a base track throughout was a great choice. If you’ve ever listened to the lyrics then you’ll know why.
This movie wasn’t at all as I expected
Maybe I’m at fault for looking at the Joker I know and not the Joker that was moulded before me, but I know the villain to be a calculated and cunning – albeit crazy – individual. It felt like Arthur’s background/having a condition that untreated – in part – led to his transition fell flat for me. I see how it makes sense in logic, but in terms of story was a bit of a let down.
There was a lot of “journeying” and bubbling tension that rarely exploded, which could have been replaced with action. And don’t mean hand to hand combat or an ol’ fashion shoot out – but things actually happening to keep the audience engaged in more than an internal struggle and passive viewing of a man’s spiral off the edge.
Aside from DCAU’s Killing Joke – this is the first glimpse of a backstory we have for Joker (that I know of). Though I can see the slight influence from the animated movie to this live-action version, it did make me realise that Joker was a drama. For me, with most comic book adaptations, the essence of how the story is told is lifted from its primary source. Some of that residual ‘comic-book’ form of storytelling is always present, however, I didn’t get that sense at all watching Joker.
Finally, I can’t help but think about the DCEU side of things – the tone of Joker sits way outside of scope with everything else they’ve produced so far. Which begs the question of what their next steps are. Does the Joker mark a turning point in the tone and style of the DCEU? Is it a stand-alone? Are they pulling the plug on the entire shared universe?
As you can most likely tell from the above – my mind is still in many ways split when it comes to Joker. Whether I blame my preconceived notion of what I thought this movie would be, and what it was – or my appreciation of what it was, even though it wasn’t what I wanted it to be – I still don’t know.
What I will say is that I personally don’t that that Joker is worth all the hype it’s getting. However in the same breath, I would recommend going to see this rare comic-book adaptation.