Signed up the 30/03/2017
I used to think that my life was a tragedy. But now I realize, it’s a comedy.
Joker is a dark psychological thriller directed by Todd Phillips. The film stars Joaqin Phoenix, Robert Di Niro, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen & Frances Conroy. The musical score was composed by Hildur Gundonadottir and the cinematography handled by Lawrence Sher.
The story takes place in an alternate 80’s era Gotham city that is overrun with unemployment, drugs, crime and drowning in garbage. Despair permeates the air but no one feels this more deeply than the protagonist Arthur Fleck a clown for hire and aspiring standup comedian who is struggling to manage his mental illness & violent thoughts. Arthur just wants to bring to joy to a cruel world but his dreams are dashed as everything he holds dear is taken from him. With each unfortunate event that befalls Arthur he begins an unstoppable & tragic descent into madness and violence that will give birth to an icon of anarchy known to all as the Joker.
Most versions of the Joker have always been terrifying because of their embodiment of violent anarchy and assumed pure evil persona’s however this version of the joker feels especially scary because of how realistic his origin story is. Gone is the classic comic book villain birthed by a vat of toxic chemicals and a personal vendetta against Batman instead we get a real life person who feels completely let down by the system and the society he lives in. He feels utterly hopeless and try as hard as he might to be a functional human being his mental illness continues to eat away at his soul and render him a pariah scorned by the world he so desperately wants to belong to.
This aspect of the joker hits especially close to home because it shows that a monster doesn’t need to come from some over the top comic book story but they can be your sad neighbor who lives two apartments from you but you don’t think to ask if they are okay and that is a horrifying thought. The idea of suffering in silence with mental illness is a powerful theme that this movie wishes to bang home because a large group of the general population often feel ostracized because of how society mistreats and undermines those with of suffer from it. The film also has strong views on the how society is inherently unequal due to the class divide and how this will eventually lead to a revolution were the disaffected will rise up and revolt against those in power. Anarchy is a consequence of those who have been beat down for so long finally refusing to take it anymore and fight back.
Joaquin Phoenix’s performance as Arthur Fleck is nothing short as masterful and he has shown that he is unequivocally the best male actor alive at the moment. His ability to bring both a relatable vulnerability to Arthur at the beginning of the film as well as a sadistic violent streak to this character when he eventually transforms into the iconic Clown prince of crime is a marvel to behold. The melancholic score was truly haunting and perfectly matched the bleak visuals of this story of a downtrodden man trying to struggling to survive in a broken society. Joker feels like a spiritual sequel to Martin Scorsese’s classic film Taxi Driver with its bleak 1970’s New York aesthetic and similar themes of an outcast gone rogue.
At times Joker is uncomfortable, shocking and unrelentingly nihilistic but it is also a beautiful tragedy that should be taken as a cautionary tale about what happens when society doesn’t help those who need to be validated and uplifted in a holistic way. That is what makes the film so powerful because of its relevance in a time were violent terror attacks are on the rise and being perpetuated by individuals who feel forgotten by the world. This is a true masterpiece that should be spoken of in the same vein as films like Taxi Driver, Fight Club, A Clockwork Orange, Black Swan & Psycho.
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