HOLLYWOOD—The movie that everyone is talking about is the “Joker,” which centers around the iconic original, stand-a-lone fictional story not seen before on the big screen. Joaquin Phoenix, portrays a man struggling to find his way in Gotham’s fractured society. A clown-for-hire by day, he aspires to be a stand-up comic at night.
However, he finds the joke always on him. Caught in a cyclical existence between apathy and cruelty, Arthur makes one bad decision that brings about a chain reaction of events in this gritty character study. The origin story of Batman’s arch-enemy is co-written and directed by Todd Phillips. Joker is a Trojan Horse: a dark art house film smuggled into the neon-lit world of multiplexes, disguised as a DC Comic Universe action adventure.
Phoenix gives it the full Daniel Day-Lewis in a slow-burn performance of such intensity and weirdness, it will either have the Academy purring come the Oscars or shunning altogether. Phoenix plays misfit Arthur Fleck, a man who hasn’t exactly run out of luck, because he never had any in the first place. From an early age Arthur has suffered from a neurological condition that causes him to laugh like a hyena at the most inappropriate moments.
Not a fun infectious laugh, but a laugh so dry and hard it makes him retch and everybody else feel nauseous. His mother, Penny (Frances Conroy) whom he loves and who loves him, but… well, as I said, he’s not a lucky guy. Fleck is an oddball in a cruel, intolerant world that doesn’t have time to care for vulnerable people. He lives in a Gotham City that’s gone to the dogs: uncollected garbage bags pile up like stinking black skyscrapers, welfare budgets have been slashed, and mass civil unrest is one small trigger-point from becoming a reality.
If Arthur were sensible he’d take an admin job in a library and keep his head down. There is not a career adviser on the planet who would Have pushed him in that direction. Arthur isn’t sensible; he’s delusional and therefore makes choices that are not good for him or anyone else. He’s a chap who wants to put a smile on people’s faces, and so he becomes a clown-for-hire during the day and an amateur stand-up comic at night.
Phoenix plays Arthur’s tragic descent in a way which seemingly encourages our empathy, but makes sure he never really gets it: we know he’s not a character to whom you’d want to get too close. There is a maniacal darkness behind his eyes which is a bit creepy. His only pleasure comes from watching Murray Franklin’s talk show, on to which he dreams of being invited one day. Robert De Niro plays the legendary TV host, thereby reversing the role he played as Rupert Pupkin in “The King of Comedy,” a film to which Joker owes a debt (as well as “Psycho” and “Taxi Driver”).
It seems that the sun never shines in this Gotham City. Joker is a powerful film. It is a heavy, and serious at times. The violence is bloody and hard to watch, with plenty of graphic scenes. The film not only raises the issue of a culture in which there is wide accessibility to firearms, but also because it sits within a franchise that tragically became associated with the real-life consequences of gun crime. In 2012, James Holmes killed 12 people and injured dozens more at the midnight premier of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado. A very sad and tragic day.
There have been a lot of yellow-toothed jokers in my life, from Cesar Romero to Heath Ledger. They’ve all brought something to the part, but none gave the character the fragility and psychosis of Joaquin Phoenix’s desperate and desperately sad Joker. I think it will become a classic. The movie earned $96 million over the weekend. The film’s current domestic tally including previews stands at $105.9 million. The film is definitely a success!
Rose’s Scoop: Seems that everyone is tuning in to watch “The Masked Singer.”