"Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there?"
Allow me preface this review by stating that since the release of Joker, one week ago, numerous people have shared their two cents with varying degrees of perceptivity. With that being said, allow me to remind you reading, that there’s not too much I feel I can say that other folks haven’t already mentioned. Additionally, by no means am I the most brilliant or analytical reviewer out there, but I’ll do my best to be as insightful as I can. I’m not sure where to start, so I’ll just jump around as things come to mind.
Joaquin Phoenix was an amazing Joker. I can’t think of another actor of this generation I can really see in the part. Well, maybe there are a few, but they’re not household names, or names big enough to carry a movie on their shoulders just yet. With regards to how it compares to Heath ledger’s rendition of the character, I do believe that there is enough room to love and appreciate both. However, if I’m being perfectly honest, I still prefer Heaths. While I’m thinking of it, I wasn’t the biggest fan of his whole tai chi/ballet thing he was doing at one point in the story. I’m sitting there looking at the screen thinking “What the hell is he doing”? I’m positive that there is some artistic merit courtesy of Todd Phillips behind it, but I still reserve the right to think it’s a little weird. I feel an argument can be made that Arthur and his descent into madness was unrealistic and abundant with Hollywood dread. With regards to the rest of the cast, I thought everybody was just great. I believe that Robert De Niro is a national treasure and it’s good to see him still getting solid roles at this stage of his career. It’s especially poignant considering the films that Joker was clearly inspired by, but more on that later. Zazie Beets was a standout as well, despite the size of her part. I was put off by the under use of both Bryan Tyree Henry (Atlanta, Into the Spider-verse) and Marc Maron (Maron, Glow) in such small, but somewhat important roles.
On my initial viewing, I didn't catch any correlation to Thomas Wayne being an allegory for our current president. I think it's because I'm use to that particular character, and the rest of the Wayne family always being portrayed as a beacon of hope and decency for the citizens of Gotham. In hindsight, I suppose it's an out there rendition of the character, but one that suits this particular story just fine. Joker is for sure a very relevant film for our times. It is pretty interesting how the film casts activists as mentally ill attention seekers, and politicians as egotistical opportunists, as in the case of Arthur Fleck and Thomas Wayne respectively. The themes of income inequality, and privilege / the upper class being treated favorably in situations of injustice, the lack of mental health awareness and how it’s not taken seriously are all important topics on display.The end sequence in Gotham City was a visual feast and work of art, that I wished would've been the end. I didn't find it as controversial or violent a film as it’s being made out to be. I've seen more violence on an FX series. The plot progresses nearly as you’d expect, beat for beat, and while it excels at making the audience uncomfortable and building suspense, you kind of know where everything is headed, which I feel lessens the impact.
The irony is not lost on me to see how Scorsese has been talking down on the cinematic merit of the lucrative superhero genre, when this latest installment is drowning with his influence. Arthur fleck is equal parts Rupert Pupkin and Travis Bickle of King of Comedy and Taxi Driver, respectively. Overall, Joker is an amazing, grim, and scathing critique of humanity and what can happen when the downtrodden, and hopeless are continuously ignored. It's a satisfying origin story I didn't know I wanted, and easily one of the most emotionally charged and complex movies I’ve ever seen. This story is simple and one we've seen many times before. Also, to borrow a line from another reviewer, "It shows how a man shaped by his environment tries desperately to bring out his personal best only to be kicked down time and time again by the people he so eagerly wants to please." It's less an explosive summer, CGI blockbuster, and more an art house character study on one of pop cultures most iconic characters. It definitely needs to be seen, re-seen, analyzed and discussed. I don't want to be too negative, but I must admit, I did get a little bored here and there, but I did thoroughly enjoy this movie. Before I forget, I have to give some love to the masterful production design that really took me back in time, mesmerizing score, and cinematography. It comes recommended for fans of the comic book super hero genre, fans of any of the cast, including Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro, and fans of the work of Todd Phillips. It is a Ricky Nixx film.
Director: Todd Phillips
Writers: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz