I went into this movie knowing fully well that The Joker is not the “typical comic book movie” Joaquin Phoenix goes all in with any role that he is set to play but I still tempered my expectations.
Reasons for low expectations?
1. DC has put out bust after bust after bust. And Marvel is filled with so much camp, one should bring the marshmallows.
2. Hollywood is once again relying on complete ideas of the past to be the secret ingredient of a current decent film.
3. If my expectations are low, they won’t fall far.
Well the joke was on me…..This movie was impeccable.
From the moment the movie starts, the viewer is thrown into a world that is uncaring, bleak, lonely, and unrelenting at every turn. As soon as I felt like I got my bearings (ie, the Joker’s character) I was sucker punched time and time again. This film drives on the conflict with self as well as conflict with environment; all while those two elements are at conflict with one another. Because Arthur Fleck (The Joker) is mentally ill….. On top of so much more.
So while there is no direct antagonist, it makes the film interestingly relatable. In The Joker, Fleck is not fighting anyone who is beyond the common person and there are no caped good guys or half animal/half man hybrids. Instead Fleck fights internal battles that haunt us all daily. Finding his place in the world, self degradation in the pursuit of passion, being able to afford his medication, his own judgement, ridicule and mockery from strangers and coworkers, common battles we share. Fleck did this all while caring for his mother who believes the wealthy will look out for them one day as repayment for loyal services over the years, while he withers away.
After being weighed down by the thick muck that is Arthur Fleck’s life, we witness Fleck succumb to his demons, transforming into The Joker every fascinating step of the way. In the end, he creates a grand finale that could not speak any more loudly of the times in which we currently live.
During this entire dizzying downward spiral I caught myself laughing at dark moments to help make them easier to swallow. I squirmed in my seat, hoping physical comfort would dilute what I was watching as it hit so close to home. Time and time again I had to remind myself that I was in the theater watching a movie, not watching the news at some random American airport.
I recommend this movie.