Within the first few minutes, this film grabs you by the back of your head and keeps you entranced upon the gaze of Joaquin Phoenix’s decent into madness. Widely considered one of the most anticipated films of 2019, Joker does not disappoint. It is a hauntingly beautiful film about Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a working clown for hire and aspiring comedian in his free time. You follow this character as he is downtrodden by society for his mental instability and the downward spiral that ensues. Although this film is about a comic book character, I would not consider this a comic book movie. This is a drama about a mentally ill individual and their inability to cope with reality.
Who knew that the director of Old School(2003)and The Hangover(2009) could deliver such a powerfully grim film? Todd Phillips completely blew me away with his original adaptation to the Joker character. Although a lot of people are saying this film feels too derivative of Scorsese’s Taxi Driver(1976), to me it feels more inspired by than a direct copycat. Casting Robert De Niro wasfor sure a direct nod to this inspiration. The artistic vision of this film feels precisely meticulous and Todd Phillips did a fantastic job of bringing this vision to life.
I don’t think this film would have worked as well for me without the beautiful cinematography from Lawrence Sher. The camera movement and focus choices created this ethereal perspective and helped to hold my attention throughout. The lighting and color choices complimented the overall theme to the film and highlighted Joaquin Phoenix’s performance which was always the focal point of the whole project.
Joaquin Phoenix and his portrayal of the Joker is by far the best performance that I’ve seen in 2019. There are few people that have the capability to truly transform themselves for a role and Joaquin Phoenix is one of if not the best method actors out there right now. His transformation into Arthur Fleck feels a lot like his character from The Master(2012), but with less hopelessness and more resentment. Joaquin went through a whirlwind mental transformation for this role, but he also reportedly lost over 50 pounds in a few months which is striking to see on screen. There are a few moments throughout the movie where he contorts his frame to match his twisted psyche. It’s quite shocking to see the physicality of this character and it adds to how sick this character truly is. I think I need to see this film a few more times to truly make a definitive opinion, but this could be Joaquin’s best performance of his career thus far. I would not be surprised if he was honored with an Oscar for this film.
There is a lot of controversy surrounding this film in the week of its release and how it’s too sick and violent and the effect it could have on sick people and I feel like it’s all a bunch of bologna. This film is violent yes, but not to the extent where we need to put warning labels in newspapers and have special news reports to talk about it. This film is about 1/10 as violent as John Wick 3 and we didn’t hear of any media frenzy surrounding that film like we are with Joker. I’m just not a fan of this double standard nonsense that is being taken into effect.
Politics aside, Joker is a fantastic film that will be talked about for many years to come. Joaquin Phoenix is a true master of his craft and he is absolutely terrifying in this film. Hisconstant smile is shadowed by the sickness behind his eyes and you will never forget the chills you get from his demented laughter.