Rating: 10/10 (A True Cinematic Masterpiece)
Cast: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy, Brett Cullen, Glenn Fleshler, Bill Camp, Shea Whigham, and Marc Maron
Director: Todd Phillips
Written by: Todd Phillips and Scott Silver
Cinematography: Lawrence Sher
Music and Background Score: Hildur Guðnadóttir
Editing: Jeff Groth
Based on: The DC Comics Character Joker
Producers: Todd Phillips, Bradley Cooper, and Emma Tillinger Koskoff
Production Companies: DC Films, Village Roadshow Pictures, Bron Creative, Joint Effort
One of the most awaited movies of the year is Joker. It stars one of Hollywood's most incredible actors in Joaquin Phoenix and this is a fictional take on the classic origin that is shrouded in mystery of the supervillain, the Joker, best known to audiences as Batman's arch nemesis. Directed by Todd Phillips best known for the Hangover movies, the movie has faced severe controversy for its glorification of it's protagonist and the social implication the film might have. Is it worth all the hype and controversy? Let's find out in this review.
Plot: Joker tells the origin story of failed comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix) and why he became psychotic and the reasons for him turning into the Joker.
Performances: Joaquin Phoenix is simply otherworldly in this film and does a masterclass on acting. He's world class as Arthur Fleck/Joker. A lot of people have said its a film on character study and what not. All that can be said is that he is simply sensational and the way he has performed his character will give you the chills and will probably haunt you as you leave the theater. From the iconic cackling laugh to the mental condition to the dialogues and reactions to the people around him, he performs each and every scene phenomenally and gives it his all. Unless the controversy train can do something to derail his prospects, the Oscar next year is surely his. To sum it up, he is terrifyingly convincing as the Joker and his antics and psychotic behavior is surely going to be remembered for a long time.
The other actors in this movie are overshadowed by Joaquin completely. Robert De Niro's much hyped cameo is adequate and the legend brings his classic dialogue delivery to the role. But its nothing memorable or special.
Zazie Beets' character is just there and has little value other than a few chilling scenes with Arthur.
Frances Conroy is excellent as Arthur's mother. Glenn Fleshler best known from True Detective is fine. Brett Cullen as Thomas Wayne is fine as well.
The rest of the actors are apt and well cast.
Direction: After 3 Hangover movies and dealing with comedy, the biggest doubt for Joker was perhaps the director. Yet, Todd Phillips shuns the criticism and delivers a true classic of a movie. This is a complete departure from comedy and comedy is known as one of the hardest genres to pull off given the comic timing and situations and dialogue. As portrayed in the cartoons, the Joker offers a lot of comic moments despite the chaos he creates. The cinematic versions never allow him that chance barring Jack Nicholson. While Ledger's version was based more on menace, this version of Joker is more about psychotic behavior and the backstory behind it. Usually origin stories adhere to a formula as seen in Marvel or DC movies in the past such as Iron Man or Wonder Woman. Yet Joker sets itself apart in the visual aesthetic of the narrative. One could say it's an arthouse movie disguised as a comic book movie. The writing of the film is good. It's not mind blowing but it does enough to make you feel for Arthur and be invested in his backstory. The twist are well placed throughout the narrative. It's clear why Warner Bros chose Phillips to make the project and why he chose Phoenix specifically for the one. What results in a chilling experience in which the lead actor carries the movie and mesmerizes you from start to finish, The backstory and all the events that are shown are meant to show how the Joker was born and the incidents and reasons why he became that way. What ensues is either one of two things, disgust or fear. If it is the latter, then the director has succeeded in what he was trying to do. Overall, Todd Phillips direction is excellent and makes Joker an exceptional film in the end.
Technicalities: Music and BGM by Hildur Guðnadóttir is phenomenal. The score in the beginning of the film is haunting and the climax score gives you goosebumps. Cinematography by Lawrence Sher is extraordinary. The visuals presented for the time period and the stair shots and in the climax as well are extraordinary. Editing by Jeff Groth is perfect except the final scene. It seems a tad dragged and the film could have ended with the previous scene. Dialogue by Todd Phillips and Scott Silver is very good. All the dialogues are apt and nothing seems forced or odd at any point. Costume Design by Mark Bridges is fantastic. Production Design by Mark Friedberg is extraordinary as well. The sets and attention to detail for the time period is simply excellent all around. Lastly, the Production Values for Joker are extravagant. Despite a limited $60 mil for a superhero film, the movie is visually stunning throughout.
+ Literally Everything
- One too many laughing scenes
Analysis and Final Take: Ever since the day that Joker was greenlight at the Warner Brothers studio, there was always a curiosity about how the audience would receive the film. After the legendary performance of Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight, the late Australian's performance has been regarded and hailed as one of the best not just in comic book history, but cinematic history as a whole. It would take someone as good or even better to come close to match his performance. And Todd Phillips chose Joaquin Phoenix, who is among Hollywood's most incredible actors.
That casting alone made the audience sit up and take notice because they know of Phoenix's acting prowess and versatility. His take on the Joker is very different from what we saw from Heath Ledger and he gives his own solid entry to the character. One thing is for sure. The characters brings out the best in each actor. Phoenix's take makes you very uncomfortable and is extremely chilling. His version makes you fear him As mentioned before,
The Joker is known for his psychotic behavior and sick sense of humor in the cartoons. There's a lot you can do in animation and a lot of liberties. In film, you can't necessarily take that risk. If anything, Joker is the closest thing we get a super hero adhering to realism and being relatable.
The story of Arthur Fleck could very well be a true life story. The first act of the film sets up Arthur's life and his problems and showcases it in a very convincing manner. The 2nd act is probably the meat of the story in terms of showcasing how he became the Joker. However, the 3rd act is where the film shines and the real Joker that you came to see takes place. From the talk show scene with De Niro the climax shot, the last 30 mins is worth your ticket itself.
A lot of complaints have been made my people about not enough Joker and too much backstory. Well in the name of story telling, you must convince the audience and show them the transformation for them to invest a character's journey and lay the foundation for the events.
The narrative is very much an origin story but it is laced the realism aspect that sets it apart from other superhero movies in the past. I never felt bored at any point in this film. The climax wherein two different tracks from the Batman lore are shown simultaneously is simply brilliant and goosebumps inducing stuff.
The brilliance of the movie is in the character and the way that you can connect with it. Even if you know nothing about the Joker from cartoons or comics, this film still does a phenomenal job of making you invested in it's narrative. While the controversy about glorifying mass murderers and killers is justified, frankly the film does a solid job of addressing why that is.
The backstory presented is convincing enough to show you why somebody could become so psychotic. Whether that will inspire real life incidents and normalize behavior like this is highly unlikely, but in the grand scheme of things, one can see why it's there. However that's up to the individual.
Another thing is the visual aesthetic and the narrative. It's not for everybody and Joker despite being a worldwide movie is not everyone's cup of tea. If you're willing to watch a movie about a psychotic killer clown or like the character, definitely go for it. And its leading man runs the show from start to finish and delivers a performance for the ages.
Overall, Joker is a true cinematic masterpiece from Warner Brothers and in the comic book genre. Joaquin Phoenix's masterclass performance, stunning technicalities, and an extremely uncomfortable and chilling narrative makes Joker a truly haunting and terrifying cinematic experience.