Verdict: Phillips’ grim take is the perfect set-up for the chaotic Joker we’ve known.
It’s here! Joker is finally here and it is everything we were hoping for. Todd Phillips’ take on the DC villain Joker is devastating, to say the least. Joaquin Phoenix is extraordinary an actor and while we have sincerely tried not to fangirl more than necessary, we have failed.
What’s Joker About:
Gotham City is burning, failing, and far from an ideal hometown. It is becoming increasingly difficult for the poor to find a job and live amidst rampant lawlessness. Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) is trying hard just to be okay and to keep his job – being a party clown. He lives with his mother, who calls him Happy, and he desperately tries to live up to this nickname. A bullied, isolated Arthur wants to spread joy and dreams of making it as a stand-up comedian. But Arthur is severely troubled and is prescribed several medicines to keep his “bad thoughts” in check. In attempts to “be normal”, Arthur pretends to be happy while grasping at straws to keep afloat mentally. However, a series of happenings trigger Arthur’s descent into his madness and Arthur unapologetically embraces the chaos in his head. When Arthur exempts himself from existing in two worlds at once – a world in his mind and the real world – is when he truly becomes the Joker.
Joker transcends the DC universe and gives us an unnerving and uncomfortable account of a mentally unstable and lonely man who finally snaps and rejects the “normal”. The film puts us into the mind and life of an abused and unstable Arthur who is struggling to simply exist. His mind is a scary, untethered, and a wildly chaotic place. Arthur calls out on the society for ridiculing and bullying him because he is different. It’s oddly satisfying when he finally accepts himself for who he is.
Director Todd Phillips takes us on a grim walk through the life of a person suffering from mental illness, who is a product of his environment. None of Arthur’s circumstances, especially with a failing city as the backdrop, seem improbable or fantastic. The feeling of impending doom is real and you can sense Arthur’s mental breakdown looming in the air. To demonstrate just how chaotic a mind can be and what happens when such a disturbed person spirals, needs a prowess of gigantic proportion. Joaquin Phoenix’s Arthur is depressed, inept, and weak while his Joker spirals at an alarming rate. Even then, you are not alienated from him and your heart still goes out to Arthur. Phillips and Phoenix invoke our compassion for a cool-blooded killer with finesse. Joker hints at several possibilities about the relationships and incidents between the Waynes and Arthur Fleck with Arthur’s frustration becoming very relatable. Oh, and the soundtrack is painfully beautiful and in tune with Arthur’s mental state; it is both simple and stunning.
What Could’ve Been Better:
Don’t expect Joker to bear any resemblance to the Joker origin story from the DC comic book The Killing Joke. Also, while we expect Arthur’s life to be nothing but bleak and hopeless, the film injects one tragedy too many into the story. However, the rejections set Joker in motion so we guess this one is a tie.
Why You Should Watch:
Joker is a stunning film as a whole, so we’d say watch it for everything. The story, the dialogue, and Joaquin Phoenix’s performance are the highlights of the film. Knowing what you already know about the Joker from previous films, it is interesting to learn more about how the pure, unanchored chaos came to be.
Joker is getting rave reviews from the critics as well as the audience. Here’s what the viewers had to say about the film: