'Joker' Movie Review (No Spoilers)
My mother always tells me to smile and put on a happy face. Let me tell you that it was difficult to have a happy face during this movie. ‘Joker’ is gruesome and gritty, but it is a damn good flick. We get an insight into Arthur Fleck’s downfall from mentally troubled comedian to the criminal clown known as the Joker. Director Todd Phillips surprised me, from ‘The Hangover’ to this? Bravo good man!
Elements of Scorsese
Todd Phillips uses elements of Scorsese's Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy in this film and it shows. The plot of the movie is basically Taxi Driver: mentally troubled guy gets abandoned by society and becomes a criminal. It’s very simple, but so well done. Jeff Groth deliberately gives the movie a slow start, giving us a chance to build up a ‘relationship’ with Arthur. We get to know a guy who loses all hope in society and gets shit on for having mental problems. We almost empathize with Arthur until that one bad day… As the Joker once told us: “All it takes is one bad day to reduce the sanest man alive to lunacy.”. Arthur gets his bad day and it’s the worst bad day you can imagine, it’s on this day that we get a first glimpse of the Joker and his insanity. The movie also starts picking up some speed after this scene.
"All it takes is one bad day..."— Joker
At the end of Arthur’s bad day we get a slow and creepy dance scene in a bathroom. This is a defining moment for Arthur, for the first time in his life he feels free. During the dance we hear some strings playing and it is absolutely dreadful. Hildur Guðnadóttir did a great job with the composition. Every time the strings started playing it felt like something bad was about to happen. It matched the tone of the film perfectly. I wouldn’t be surprised if she is on the nominee list for the Oscars.
Hildur's composition matches the tone of the film perfectly.
Joaquín Phoenix steals the show but I would like to shed a light on another great performance: Gotham City. No, Gotham is not a person, but it feels like a character in this movie. Gotham is one of the characters that pushes Arthur to insanity. Everywhere you look in the city you can see society failing, from crazy patients having to take the same elevator as civilians in Arkham Asylum to the garbage on the streets. The city looks disgusting and realistic, the production design team did a great job.
There is some nice symbolism in ‘Joker’. Arthur going from walking slowly up the stairs to dancing on the stairs later in the movie, symbolizing how he finally feels good. There are also some nice nods to Heath Ledger’s Joker and one of the final scenes is going to be iconic in the story of the Joker.
Oscar winning performance
Finally, we come to the best part of this film: Joaquín Rafael Phoenix. What a performance… From the dancing to the maniacal made-up laughter, Joaquin did an excellent job all around. His acting and the delivery of some lines made several scenes extra memorable. His performance is Oscar winning material and comes very close to Heath’s Joker. It is difficult to compare them though, the two Jokers are very different. While Heath’s Joker was a criminal mastermind, Joaquín’s Joker is downright insane. He doesn’t care about the consequences of his actions and embraces the chaos he creates. It’s weird, because a line from Heath’s Joker is more relevant for Joaquín’s Joker: “I’m like a dog chasing cars, I wouldn’t know what to do if I caught one, you know, I just do…things.”.
So, what do you get when you cross a great acting performance with great directing? I’ll tell you what you get. You get a masterpiece, and ‘Joker’ is exactly that.
U.S. Release Date: 4 October 2019
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
Music: Hildur Guðnadóttir
Cinematography: Lawrence Sher
Editing: Jeff Groth
Production Design: Mark Friedberg
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz
Genres: Crime, Drama, Thriller