I’d like to begin by saying, that this is NOWHERE NEAR a comic book film. Todd Phillips takes what we know and throws it out the window.
Joker has a very simple storyline and Joaquin Phoenix’s character study takes it to another level. It’s a vengeful take on how the government and society treat the mentally ill or those who suffer financially.
The first half of this film, analyzes the mental illness of Arthur Fleck. He is verbally, physically and mentally abused by people around him because he has a condition. It showed how society paints victims of mental illness and how they label them as less than humans. Joaquin’s performance in the first half made me sympathize with his illness, his vulnerability and timidness made me feel for Arthur. He lived with his mother, watched the Murray Franklin Show and went to work, that was his reality. Anyone can sympathize with Arthur Fleck in the first half of this film AND can understand his frustration when things keep getting worse for him as the film goes on.
Naturally, we know that Arthur Fleck becomes a villain BUT the human qualities and the education of mental illness makes audiences relate to that aspect of him.
The second half of this film highlighted Arthur’s descent into madness. His transformation into the Joker was slow but the build up was worth it. The reason why this performance was so incredibly stunning, was because his movements and facial expressions became more crisp and rigid. He went from timid poverty stricken every day working man, to confident, stand up comedian, who has A LOT to say about how society has treated him. His growth in this film is beautiful to watch but also incredibly unnerving to know that it leads him down this violent path.
The score by Hildur Guðnadóttir, is sinister and accompanies Arthur’s descent so well. There were soft moments and then booming ones, that made this ride so enjoyable from beginning to end. Phillips’ direction was his best to date and I valued the extreme close ups of Joaquin so much. Joaquin’s eyes were enough to sell audience’s on the fact that this man was crazed.
The character of the Joker has never been an easy one to play but Joaquin brought a human element that people could relate to. Arthur Fleck’s story is heartbreaking and it is a tragedy, until HE decides to change his story and turn it into a comedy. Comedy is subjective and what the JOKER finds humorous… well, we don’t relate to that.
This is not a comic book film, so do not compare it to any of them. This is a singular entity putting the government and society on blast. This is the most different and challenging film of the year.