“You’ve forgotten what I told you a long time ago– one of the painful truths of comedy– you always take shots from folks who just don’t get the joke!”
That line above was from a scene in the Batman: The Animated Series episode Mad Love, when The Joker re-iterates to girlfriend (and doormat) Harley Quinn a tip about the subjectivity of comedy… before shoving her out of a three-story window. Such a good boyfriend (sarcasm).
Those very words voiced by the great Mark “Skywalker” Hamill rang on repeat in my mind for the entire duration of Joker, the seemingly definitive origin of Batman’s arch-nemesis and Clown Prince of Crime starring Joaquin Phoenix (Her, Gladiator) in the title role (which currently, has made $900 Million dollars worldwide). I won’t spoil anything here, but, I’ll give you my overall thoughts on the Todd Phillips-directed movie after a brief synopsis (I mean, you already know the synopsis, but I’ll try not to sound too redundant).
Joker follows the story of Arthur Fleck, a poor, aspiring comedian who works as a clown for parties, children’s hospitals, etc. He also takes care of his ailing mother, Penny while suffering from a peculiar mental disorder. Arthur throughout the course of the first act of the film, is continuously picked-on and disrespected by some people in the city, but a series of events may indeed bring those days to a close.
Although I think this movie was a bit over-hyped due to a lot of the buzz out there, but I still found quite enjoyable. Here is a clear character study of a man with serious mental health issues, with whom I started to empathize with just a bit… until he starts killing people, which further’s Arthur’s descent into madness. Over the past decade or so, the character of the Joker has inadvertently been named the “patron saint of incels” by some, given the character’s apparent popularity among problematic men. Because of that, there was a fear from a lot of moviegoers, of this film glorifying all of the Joker’s violent acts. However, in no way shape or form does this film celebrate those elements at all. If anything, the film shows those actions as still being heinous.
I was quite impressed with Lawrence Sher’s cinematography (particularly with his choice of colors in the final act of the movie) while also pleased with the 1980’s New York — err, Gotham City setting. Phoenix’s performance as Arthur/Joker is pretty spot on, with other impressive performances by Zazzie Beets (Deadpool, Atlanta), Frances Conroy (American Horror Story: Coven) and Robert DeNiro as a love interest, Arthur’s mom, and a hilarious late-night talk show host, respectively. Well written, beautifully shot, and nowhere near as violent as you think, I’m going to give it a score of 4/4 stars. There are much more in-depth reasons for that rating, but, I’m saving those for part two of this article, where I’ll open the flood gates for spoilers!
photo cred: Warner Bros.