Joker Review – The Most Compelling Film of the Year

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Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix, is a beautifully executed example of the power of film as a cultural narration on our society.

With the most recent portrayal of the Joker coming from 2016’s ‘Suicide Squad’, in which Jared Leto depicted the character as undoubtedly demonic,  2019’s Joker provides something new. Going beyond countless battles between stereotypically “good” and “bad” characters, the lines of morality cross in this thriller, to where you cannot define any character as the protagonist or antagonist. 

Set in 1981, Arthur Fleck is a party clown hoping to make it big as a comedian and struggling with day to day life in the poverty-stricken Gotham City. As budget cuts discontinue his state-mandated therapy and his mental conditions (notably one that causes him to laugh uncontrollably at improper times) isolate him from society. Fleck begins his downward spiral towards becoming the infamous Joker. 

Throughout the movie, the writers introduced many innovative twists to Joker’s backstory. Scenes could be interpreted in different ways, depending on which character you decide to believe. This put a level of mystery into the movie, encouraging viewers to analyze each scene from multiple perspectives. An example of these different views is choosing whether to believe ….?

Adding on to the creative writing within the script, another part of Joker that made it interesting to watch was the cinematography. The clash of the Joker’s bright suit and painted white face against the dark and violent scenery of Gotham City made the movie pleasing to the eye. 

Multiple scenes were shot at the same outside stairwell. First, with Arthur trudging down, feeling defeated and overpowered. Then, with Joker skipping down, feeling exhilarated and filled with glee. I really appreciated the contrast between Arthur as a person bashed by the upper class of society, to Joker as a character who finds himself the leader of a rebellion.

The main controversy of the movie Joker was that it was too contemporary. Parents hate that they cannot take their Batman-loving children to this rated R movie. Critics say it is too violent and that it pushes the liberal agenda. However, the purpose of the film was not to please traditional superhero audiences. It calls out society on its hypocrisy and injustices. It captures the zeitgeist of the early ’80s, where mental health was neglected, and the gap between the rich and the poor was exceedingly high. There is no superhero to cheer on, no love interest for them to save, and no applause from the public. Joker is a superhero film that lacks a hero and presents a monstrous villain in a very sympathetic light, which is not what many were expecting from a DC Comics movie. For example, in the 2012 adaptation of the Batman franchise, “The Dark Knight Rises,” Batman is presented as a traditional hero with questionable morality. Joker continues this pattern that DC comics have set forth, which is expanding the background of one-dimensional characters and giving them depth. 

Joker forces you to think about the audience to think about their role in creating someone like the Joker. Or, how you could potentially become the villain if you’re pushed down too many times.

Joker has many qualities that made it an enjoyable movie. But, it wasn’t perfect. At times, the script was dull and made me lose interest in the dialogue. The acting from the minor characters felt forced like they were just there to fill up time. The comedic dialogue felt out of place and very unnatural. But, Joaquin Phoenix’s stunning performance and the excellent camera work overshadowed the inferior aspects.

This movie was exceptional. Phoenix was able to display a man whose descent into insanity was caused by being rejected by society. All in all, I’d pay to watch this movie in a theater for the second time.