Joker (English) Review & Rating
Joker Review: An Operatic Madness In The landscape Of Generic Comic Book Films
He was not the man we know
He was not what we know of him yet. Neither was his nemesis was what he would become in the future. His name is Arthur Fleck. Just a Fleck of dust in a sprawling city inhabited by millions upon millions and has a troubling history. One of the richest men in the city, the most influential is running for the Mayor. And here our Arthur whoever he is now is sitting in a therapy session. He has a past of mental illness after all.
The Joker is one of the greatest comic book characters ever created and he is inarguably the greatest villain of all time. At least for Bat Man. Todd Phillips who is known for deeply personal and satirical comedies like The Hangover Trilogy and mockumentary Borat (popular with general moviegoers with films like Due Date) has taken inspiration from Martin Scorsese's earliest classics and set out to make his own Taxi Driver. Only that it's not set in New York. And it's not a deeply personal ordinary story.
An alternate take on the iconic supervillain
It is an alternate take on the most iconic supervillains, The Joker as in The Joker. He gave it his own spin and came up with an actor like Joaquin Phoenix who is known among other things for his taciturn personality. In one of the early sequences of this shocking brilliant and gloriously violent film, a rare comic book film with an R-rating (Adults only rating A in India), Arthur is seen in a clown getup. He is standing in front of a store on a busiest avenue. He’s been hired to carry an “Everything Must Go” sign.
A very powerful foreshadowing we will witness Arthur's sanity going away.
The madness of us
A bunch of kids steals the sign from him. Then, all of a sudden, they kick the shit out of him. Like how society treats misfits. Like how society hunted down the freaks (also read: witches - why wizard is taken as a positive word and witch as a negative word is still confusing for this writer). We feel sorry for him like any self-respecting audience should but deep down if we look into ourselves (albeit with a cynical eye) we derive a sadistic pleasure from that heinous act of violence.
Isn't it action sequences and violence that attract our attention quicker than any act of grace? How many times did you stop in your place to get a glimpse of violence or a fight from a movie on the television set even when we're not paying attention to it? Right? Yes. Now we are on track for the rest of the review with this in mind.
Joker is a repulsive film and we love it
As advertised by the makers Joker is an examination of the falling down of a failed stand-up comic into ways of violence because of the shunning of society. That the film is set in the 1980s and the Gotham portrayed here is eerily similar to what we have known of the New York City of the same time, and the tone and atmosphere is very similar to our own times when the number of voices raising against gun violence makes Joker a different film from what we have known of comic book films. Granted, these films also reflect our society to an extent albeit in a popcorn eating style.
This Joker is different
But Joker is different. Like the actor who portrayed the character. We have seen some iconic portrayals of Joker. The first of the best Jack Nicholson in Tim Burton's much-loved take on Batman. The benchmark of Heath Ledger's Oscar-winning performance. Phoenix has lost about 23 kg (read: 50 pounds) and has developed a stunningly multi-emotion eliciting persons. We sympathize with him. We want to to get eliminated. We pray for his recovery. We want to share happy moments with him. And we want to beat or get beaten by him.
Arthur Fleck is not everyone
Arthur Fleck is not everyone. His response to almost everything is to laugh. He derives bliss, the only bliss by sitting beside his invalid mother and watching a late night TV comedy show by Murray Franklin. Arthur's got a collection of contrived guffaws — a high-pitched delirious giggle that irritates us to the core. A stylized cackle that’s all but indistinguishable from a sob. He wants to become a stand-up comedian like Murray but Arthur is seriously funny in any possible way.
A laughter that betrays nothing
His laughter is an act that parades itself as fakery. What it expresses isn’t glee. It tells us that Arthur feels nothing. He’s dead inside. He’s a bitter, mocking nowhere man on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Any moment. When one day, Arthur takes up on a bunch of guys... Wait wait... What's this? He doesn't take on them at first. It is three men who try to take him on a punch bag ride. His transformation is now complete. An aspiring Joker now becomes The Joker.
Writing and direction
Todd Phillip's direction has an operatic mad energy. He has just derived a voyeuristic pleasure showing the descent of a man who is already a suppressed psychopath into a real and irrepressible psychopath who is called The Joker. The writing is strong to the extent all the narration is deeply disturbing on one level and is a pleasure to indulge ourselves in as it's some great storytelling.
The dialogues are deliberately special. But somewhere down there, the narration missed a deep emotional connection. Of course, the outcome is already known. And it's tragic. All the more tragic because it's protagonist is sympathetic and irritatingly frightening at the same time. The screenplay is overlong. But it works for the same reason. The ending makes more sense this way.
Joaquin Phoenix is a miracle
Joaquin Phoenix is a miracle. It was said that Leonardo DiCaprio was first thought if for this role. We don't know how Leo would interpret the role (obviously great we're sure) but here is a stunning performance that makes us forget previous Jokers and haunts us for weeks to come. Robert de Niro as Murray Franklin is a treat. Zazie Beetz as Sophie Dumond, a cynical single mother who shares a love-hate romantic relation with Arthur is neat.
The rotten city that drives Arthur Fleck down the slope
The music and cinematography go hand in hand with the director's vision. The atmosphere is more realistic towards the rotting and graffiti-filled NY City - the big rotten apple - and the color schemes are dreamily moody. So are the sounds or the lack thereof.
Thank you, Warner Brothers
The production from Warner Brothers is a miracle in the days where every second film that the audience flock to theatres to watch are big-budget kid friendlies. This is a truly dark take on comic book characters. An iconic one at that.
Joker is a Must watch. In all Caps.
- Everything (depends on our perception)
- Everything (depends on our perception)
Pycker rating: 3.25 out of 5
Written by: GitacharYa