JOKER Review

In a world where hypersensitivity is reigning, a drop of some augmented reality arrived. Joker is a violent film. You may have already heard about it. But, is it nonsense violence?

Joker

Joker centers around an origin of the iconic arch nemesis and is an original, standalone story not seen before on the big screen. Todd Phillips’ exploration of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a man disregarded by society, is not only a gritty character study, but also a broader cautionary tale.

Story

In case you’ve lived under a rock for the last….century, The Joker is Batman’s main antagonist. What we get to see in this movie is an origins tale for him. One of the most gruesome and completely nuts villains you’ll ever see. Not the kind of clown you’d like in your children’s party.

We get to meet Arthur (Joaquin Phoenix) as he is working as a clown, those used back in the day outside of stores to attract customers. He was clowning around with the sign when some kids steal it from him. He chases them to an alleyway where they viciously attack him. There was no reason to do it. They simply wanted to do it. Violence without a purpose, as it happens in real life. No reason, no motive, and yet we see dead people everywhere.

Arthur has the kind of life many people around the world live: a rather tough, sad, somewhat depressing one. He, though, was raised to “put on a happy face” every time. His mother Penny (Frances Conroy) is also a troubled old lady. She has high hopes and is always looking for any letter she could get. Arthur is always caring for her, working as much as he can to be able to get her the medication she needs.

Gotham is going through a difficult moment and we can’t really categorize people between “good” and “bad” at this point. They’re just people. The inhabitants of Gotham City. Thomas Wayne is running for governor as he states he is Gotham’s only hope. However, he may be hiding some rather nasty secrets himself.

Politics

While Joker is about the origins of this famous villain, it all happens in the midst of a civil fight between the lower class population and Gotham’s “elite”. We get to know that there are people robbing, rioting, and on strike against politicians.

The situation is as awful as getting to the point where Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), during a press conference, calls the lower class “a bunch of clowns”. This is something to riot about for sure. The self-proclaimed “savior” insulting the majority of Gotham’s inhabitants. Guess what? Clowns arose.

Mental Illnesses

One of the main topics in JOKER is about mental illnesses. Both, Arthur and his mother Penny suffer from mental illnesses. This is obvious since the beginning as we see Arthur taking care of his mother, who isn’t doing much besides watching TV and writing letters to Thomas Wayne.

We see Arthur laughing hysterically from time to time, even when the situation has nothing funny to laugh about. At one point, we get an explanation: he suffers from a condition that causes this laughter.

Arthur is always trying to avoid this laughter, and we see real suffering in his face as he laughs. He is even ready for when this happens as he keeps some cards to give people whenever it is needed. These cards explain that he has this condition and his laughter doesn’t show his real feelings.

Arthur keeps going to his scheduled appointments with a social worker where he talks about how he feels and keeps a diary. This diary has jokes and personal thoughts. He wants to be a comedian, he dreams of becoming famous. His deepest desire, though, is simply to be noticed.

Throughout this film, we see a deeply depressed human being. His thoughts, written on paper, are screams for help. One of the toughest thoughts to read is about him wondering and wishing for “his death to be worth more than his life”. He repeatedly thinks about how awful everything is, while at the same time keeping present that he must “put on a happy face” nonetheless.

Story Spoilers

As far as his mother goes, late in the movie we get to know that she has been in Arkham. She was taken there because of mental illnesses as well as she suffered from a delusional state of mind which made her believe unreal thoughts she had. As well, she allowed a former partner of hers to abuse her and Arthur to the point where she didn’t do anything when he repeatedly hit her and kept young Arthur tied while causing concussions to him. We get to know that this is the reason of Arthur’s laughter condition.

This situation caused Penny to firmly believe she had a romance with Thomas Wayne while she was working for him. Even to the point of affirming that Arthur was Thomas’ son. This is all true for her and nothing will make her change her mind about this. However, it isn’t real. She adopted Arthur and raised him as her son. We know nothing about Arthur’s parentage, and he only knows Penny as his mother. He believes what she told him, he even confronts Thomas about this, causing Thomas to punch him in the face while repeatedly trash talking about him and his mother.

The Turning Point

When you have a depressed person and push the right buttons, you’ll get them to explode. Everybody has different ways of responding to pressure. In this case, violence is what arises out of him.

Arthur is fired of his job as a clown. He fails as a comedian due to his illness. People make fun of him on live TV. Besides all of this, he keeps going, he keeps putting on his happy face. But this isn’t sustainable. Nobody can take so much by themselves. At one point, while he was on a subway, three young guys start harassing a lady. She is trying to ignore them, but they keep on going. Arthur has an episode of his uncontrollable laughter, which ends up as this story started: with him getting beat up.

Spoiler

This is when everything starts. As they keep beating him up, Arthur takes out a gun a friend gave him. He shoots them, killing two of the three guys on the spot, while also injuring the third one. The survivor runs away and Arthur follows him. They get out of the subway and before leaving the station, Arthur shoots again, killing the third guy. He runs away leaving the corpses there.

News start spreading about a “killer clown” with some labeling him as a vigilante, and others as a psychotic killer. The lower class sees him as a hero. They start paying tribute by wearing clown masks while having strikes against the local government. Arthur sees this, and he starts enjoying it. Nobody knows it was him. But he feels noticed. He feels important. Arthur is now getting what he wants.

He is invited by the famous Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) to his comedy show after he made fun of Arthur’s failure as a comedian. Arthur is ready to go there, to meet his hero-turned-foe. He asks to be introduced as “Joker” instead of Arthur, though, because that’s the way Murray called him when he showed the clip of Arthur trying his best to be a comedian, while having an episode of laughter.

This is when Arthur finally externalize his thoughts and feelings, presenting the best monologue he has ever had. At this point, Arthur makes a point and accepts that having killed some people felt great for him. Really, at this point is when he accepts being who he is. Arthur is no more. Joker was born and is introducing himself to the world by publicly killing a celebrity. Shooting him in the face.

Characters

I won’t go into many details for characters in JOKER. I’ve mentioned the main ones already above, and there is just one thing I want to mention here: Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker is the most complex and complete character you’ll get to see and know in mere 121 minutes of your life. He grew up being abused to the point of breaking his mind. He lives in constant depression, he shows the world how a depressed person isn’t always sad and crying by putting on his happy face.

Arthur’s mother doesn’t need to talk too much to show us how sick she is. We get to know about it the very first time we see her. There’s a back story for her that we get to know throughout the film and it is tough to see. It is heartbreaking. Her whole existence feels real.

Cinematography

When it comes to the visual experience JOKER brings, it is exquisite. As soon as you start watching, you’re transported to a whole different time. TV is just getting to broadcast in color. Talk shows are the best shows to watch. You almost see everything in sepia.

Camera angels are always on-point. We see everything we need to see at any given time. There’s emphasis on us seeing the way Arthur behaves, his ways. We get to see the world Arthur sees. Nobody else’s. We get to believe what he believes and we experience his thoughts.

It is a full experience. You get to see the origins of The Joker. But you also get to live that origins story yourself. Getting to the point of backing Arthur up, until you really understand what is going on and it hits you in the face. This isn’t a movie, it is an experience.

Soundtrack

Everything fits perfectly throughout this movie. When it comes to its soundtrack, it adds to that visual experience, transporting you to a different time. But something better than words, just listen to it.

Final Verdict

Everything you’ve heard about JOKER is right. This is the best movie you’ll watch this year. After watching it, you’ll know that this may easily be one of the best films you’ve watched in recent years, or even in your life.

We get to see the rise of the most infamous clown of all time. We get to see his story entangled with Batman’s origins as well. The most important piece: we get the most complete characters we’ve seen in a while. This is an instant classic. A masterpiece.

Credits to its creator. As perfect as the movie.

Personal Note

This movie touches on some very sensitive topics. Mental illnesses, abuse, violence. Throughout most of the film, we get to support Arthur in what he does. Please, though, keep in mind that Joker isn’t a role model. He isn’t a vigilante. Most important, he isn’t a hero.

This is the story of a deeply depressed human who is pushed to the limit by the circumstances. This isn’t a hero at all. He is not supposed to be followed or taken as a good guy. The idea of this story is for you to understand him, to internalize how much it took for “Happy” to become the psycho-killer he is now. A lot of different circumstances aligned for him to become a sort of light-of-hope for many people in Gotham, but for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t follow his ways. These are disrupted due to his circumstances. Understand the story and the man behind one of the crudest and most merciless villains from DC Comics.

But mainly, enjoy the ride and don’t forget to put on a happy face.

Good

  • Masterful acting by Joaquin Phoenix
  • Respectful treatment of mental illnesses
  • Complex yet easy to understand storyline
  • Crude story
  • Faithful to Joker's attitude
  • Perfect pace throughout the entire film
  • Relatable characters
  • Emotional all around
10

Perfect

Story - 10
Characters - 10
Acting - 10
Cinematography - 10
Soundtrack - 10
Thriller - 10
Geek, writer, musician. John is a horror addict, DC Comics fan (Marvel too, though) and a single-player games enthusiast. You can normally find him watching horror movies or playing games on PC, unless he is writing, in which case, you won't see him around.
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