Minor spoilers ahead: My son, Nolan and I saw Joker today and it is a heavy dramatic film. I expected this to be a movie to be a bit of a dramatic affair as it has been well described as a deep character study and it was all of that. But was it any good?
Well as a “comic book” movie it was a little bit off the reservation, the Arthur Flack version of the Joker has been told in the comics but as is expected with the gang at Warner Brothers, a great many liberties were taken in the film adaptation of this character.
Arthur was a clown, literally a performing clown, and aspiring to be a stand up comic. The movie focuses on his rather creepy relationship with is “mother” and his existing mental issues that are revealed as the movie progresses. This film is rather dark and the character of Arthur Fleck, AKA the Joker is well fleshed out.
A great deal of praise has been heaped upon Joaquin Phoenix for his deep portrayal of a truly disturbed individual. This praise is well placed but this movie was incredibly well directed as well. Todd Phillips uses a series of camera techniques to present this gritty film, but his use of the tight close up evokes Sergio Leone’s style in “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly” and it works in Joker to outstanding effect.
From a pure comic book stand point this movie falls a little flat, and if you like a little comic relief with your jet black dark stories you get little such relief here. This one sucks the life force out of the most jovial of souls. But Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix give us a dark and disturbed character that we can actually feel empathy for. As Arthur slips deeper into the darkness and begins his truly delusional ride down the rabbit hole into the persona of the Joker we see senseless and horrific murders. But a few of the murders are almost justified. If you don’t for at least a second or too feel a bit of satisfaction when Arthur takes his first two lives then you may have missed the whole point of this heavy film. No I do not condone the murder of people who are assholes, but this movie, just for a second or too lets you feel Arthur’s pain, and in that brief moment you get it, then you go whoa, too dark… too dark and you pull back on reins… that is enough darkness for me. And that is the difference between sanity and lunacy… I am apparently still sane.
Thomas Wayne is featured in the film and we see a very different version of the Dark Knight’s father here. At first I was taken back, what? That’s not Thomas Wayne, NEVER! But then I realized this entire film is viewed from the perspective of the Joker and the downtrodden of Gotham in the deepest of despair. The noble and benevolent version of Wayne was always shown from the perspective of Bruce Wayne, Alfred Pennyworth, and the Gotham elite. Here we see the other side of the society and their view of the wealthy and powerful of Gotham City during a rough economic cycle. This is a brilliant spin on the classic perception of the Wayne family.
The movie is a bit of a period piece taking place in the early 1980s, there is a great deal of Hollywood period blunders, but I forgive them, 90% of the production crew was likely not born yet in 1981. Overall I really like the setting, the mood, and the style of this movie. Mr. Phoenix delivers a chilling and Oscar worthy performance as our frightening mental case character study and Todd Phillips delivers camera work and pacing to keep this thing in the green for two hours. Be advised, this is a heavy drama, seriously D-R-A-M-A. There is little in the way of comic relief and there is little in the way of action. Mr. Phillips dives into the dark and damaged soul of a truly disturbed man which yields at the end the Clown Prince of Crime AKA the Joker.
Leave the kiddies at home parents, seriously, I shouldn’t have to tell you. And yes, it is a very good movie.