What is so fabulous about Todd Phillips’ Joker is how immersive it is as a cinematic experience. A character like Joker is always a fascinating character that will make you wonder how someone becomes as intimidating like that. Joker is doing exactly and precisely that. It focuses sharply on Arthur’s headspace. Our right and wrong, our funny and unfunny are somewhere confusing for Arthur and the masterful making almost makes us think from that perspective (problematic and fascinating at the same time).
While things are going not so great in Gotham city, our hero Arthur Fleck is also in a struggling phase in his professional domain where he failed to become a stand-up comedian. The psychological issues and counseling through which he remained calm got cut due to the bad financial condition of the city. The movie Joker shows us what was all going through Arthur’s mind and how he became the clown prince of crime.
It is interesting how Todd Phillips and Scott Silver do the setting up part of this movie so brilliantly. The demon in Arthur comes out only gradually. And the loneliness and depression he suppresses inside him are shown in the most realistic manner possible. When we as an audience realize things about Penny Fleck and later about Arthur, the shock we get is more on the internalized side. There is an emotional confusion this movie creates making you sympathize with a man who has done heinous things. The people who laughed at Arthur are actually a representation of a majority in any society. So the anarchy we witness at the end of the movie becomes that bewildering politics of the movie that is tough to support and yet strong enough to make us think about a lot of things that are part of a conventional system.
Joaquin Phoenix’s biggest achievement would be that he made everyone forget about that benchmark set by Heath Ledger. This Joker is an origin story and Phoenix internalizes the pain of the character so brilliantly and builds the character from scratch. His reactions to painful instances, his impulsive decision making all have a certain level of charisma. The Joker here is not a wacky eccentric character. Even though he is called a freak by many in the film, Phoenix makes us realize the pain through which Arthur is going through. Apart from Phoenix, there is actually no actor in the cast who gets a great screen time to make an impact. Robert De Niro as the talk show host Murray Franklin was memorable. Zazie Beetz as the neighbor and Frances Conroy as the mother are fine in their respective roles.
In my opinion, Joker is one movie where you can’t really question the reaction a movie like this could create. Todd Phillips has decided to get inside the head of a character that has been going through a lot of mental difficulties for a really long time. I actually had a little bit of a problem when some people were whistling for the moment he became Joker in the full from. I felt those moments as extremely chilling and even Todd Phillips’ vision had a similar idea. The screenplay moves gradually from the daily events of Arthur to the big scale showdown. They place a lot of elements of chaos in the screenplay at various points and towards the end, it all culminated in creating an intriguing climax. The cinematography by Lawrence Sher is simply brilliant. Those tight face close-ups and the symmetric frames with spooky lighting has done justice to the mood this movie wanted to create. Jeff Groth’s cuts also play a key role in creating that pace.
Joker from Todd Phillips is a disturbing immersive experience. I saw a meme posted by my friend and it shows the different reactions to a Joker movie in 1989 and 2019. The problematic question of whether this movie is advocating for lawlessness has a lot to do with the suffocation we feel due to the inability of organized bodies that run countries.
A character like Joker is always a fascinating character that will make you wonder how someone becomes as intimidating like that. Joker is doing exactly and precisely that.
Green: Recommended Film
Orange: Okay, Watchable, Experimental Films
Red: Not Recommended