I am not a huge fan of comics and the multiple universes out there dedicated to their heroes. I enjoy some of the movies in isolation but have never rushed off to see them. So, I approached Joker with a certain amount of indifference. I though, sure why not, I’ll go watch it, I quite liked The Dark Knight.
Now I know some of you will be thinking… what an ungrateful little shit. And in hindsight, I agree with you. This movie was incredible.
For those of you that don’t know the plot, we follow Arthur Fleck aka The Joker – played impeccably by Joaquin Phoenix. Arthur is good at heart but is downtrodden at every moment by his struggles with mental health, his disenfranchisement from society and a Gotham City quickly ravelling out of control in the grip of a garbage strike. He is beaten and ridiculed to the point where he questions his own existence, and his condition of guttural laughing at exactly the wrong moment leaves him very much an outsider.
As a result, we take a front-row seat as we watch what good Arthur has left be ripped from him in a systematic breakdown. This is a character deep dive as we learn how one of the most popular villains in culture came to fruition.
Kind of liking anti-heroes is not a new concept, even in the binary, good verses evil world of comics and their superheroes. But this movie has already received criticism for its celebration of violence and the fact that good doesn’t really prevail.
Arthur Fleck has been had up as a dangerous example for the likes of ‘Incels’ (involuntary celebates) – that weird little group of men who congregate in the dark shadows of the internet to compare notes on why women don’t want to sleep with them and how pissed off they are with women as a result. But this movie is better than that. It shows us a very clear message, there are people out there in life who don’t fit the norm and we as a society – or in Arthur’s case, Gotham City – have the choice to be kind and courteous or cruel and callous.
But more than anything, go and see this movie for Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. He clearly thoroughly enjoyed himself, his maniacal laughter will become iconic and his dancing and movement often appear at the most jarring of times. Everything about Phoenix’s performance is confronting and I promise, you won’t be leaving the cinema disappointed.
5 big fat stars.