What’s up readers? It’s been a while! It’s been two months since I have watched/reviewed a movie and that is the longest hiatus I have had between movies since the inception of this blog. It’s been a good break though, as it gave me time to fully invest in the beginning stages of my new podcast! If you enjoy hearing me rant about movies on my blog, then you should probably type in “Banter? I Hardly Know Her!” on Spotify or Apple Podcasts and you’re sure to find all the cinema-related content you could ask for. Anyway, let’s talk about Joker!
When I first heard that a Joker movie was in production starring Joaquin Phoenix, I honestly thought it was a joke. Who would dare portray the iconic villain of the caped crusader after what Heath Ledger did in 2008? However, as the release of the movie grew near, it became clear that this movie would be a completely different story than we have seen before with this character.
A Dark Night
First of all, this an extremely dark movie. In terms of mood, it kind of reminded me of M.. Night Shyamalan’s Split. Both of those movies have a dark cloud hanging over the entire film and are without a single light-hearted moment to reduce the dramatic tension. The music is at the forefront of the mood and plays a huge role in adding a feeling of suspense to have the audience on the edge of their seats. The score is composed by Hildur Guðnadóttir (Chernobyl, Sicario: Day of Soldado). She said she wrote the score with the mindset of finding the humanity in The Joker. However, is that humanity something the audience can really appreciate?
I Don’t Feel So Good Mr. Stark
The thing that I didn’t like about Joker is the feeling that it invokes after watching it. It really is an uncomfortable film to watch. The first act of the film focuses on the unfortunate situation of Arthur Fleck. You learn about his mental disability and the condition that basically makes him laugh uncontrollably anytime he experiences stress. You see him get bullied and beat up by some teenage punks and treated poorly by his boss. The move by Todd Phillips to induce a feeling of empathy from the viewer early on really proves to be a devious one because once you feel like you can relate to Arthur Fleck in any way, the rest of the movie doesn’t feel the same. Arthur’s week continues to get worse and worse, and it isn’t really his fault, but eventually, he just breaks. His view of the people around him changes and he realizes that he doesn’t feel bad about killing the people that have hurt him.
As the audience watches all the events unfold that transform Arthur Fleck into Joker, it is impossible not to think about how something like this could happen in the real world. We all experience some kind of hurt, pain, or injustice from time to time. Our response to it is usually much more humane than Arthur’s. The problem is that this movie kind of romanticizes, maybe even glorifies, Arthur’s violent actions. It is easy to perceive that he received relief of his pain from the killing. It is an uncomfortable thing to relate to this character and then watch him find relief of his pain in a series of gruesome murders. I left the theater with a very weird and almost sinister feeling in my gut that didn’t really leave until the next morning.
Let’s Get Technical
Technically speaking, Joker is a masterpiece. From the beautiful cinematography to the music to the writing, everything about it screams multiple Oscar nominations. Joaquin Phoenix delivers the best performance that I have seen this year and deserves a shot at the awards for Best Actor come February. Thankfully his portray of the character is so different then what we saw from Heath Ledger that I don’t feel the need to compare the two and decide which rendition was better. I think Phoenix’s Joker wouldn’t probably work as well in a PG-13 rated Dark Knight. I also feel that Phoenix’s joker lacked a kind of witty genius that Ledger had and was really needed to have to stay one step ahead of Christian Bale’s Batman.
Though the movie is a technical masterpiece, I worry about the effect it may have on people. The anxiety it may induce in people that find themselves in a similar position that Arthur Fleck was in at the midpoint in the movie. Also, I would consider Joker very low on the scale of rewatchability (a made-up word I’m sure). I could maybe see myself watching the film once more and then never again because of how dark it is. For all of these conflicting reasons, I don’t feel like I can provide an accurate ranking of the film. Watch at you’re own risk.