I’ve heard very polarizing things about this film prior to checking it out. On one end, I was hearing that the film received standing ovations at international film festivals with Joaquin Phoenix being considered for an Oscar. On the other, I hear many trashing the social commentary and how the film kind of speaks out to or glorifies violence and marginalized hostile communities. I have to say, I was expecting something more however I am definitely very positive about this effort and thing a stand alone rated R back story was absolutely what DC needed to inject life into its name.
The film is about a mentally ill wannabe comedian who takes care of his physically and mentally ill mother. This man named Arthur Fleck, has sporadic bursts of uncontrollable laughter, a failing and non existent love life, and is a social outcast who gets bullied and abused. Fleck begins a violent and deranged quest to becoming a comedian while inciting class riots throughout Gotham City. The film gives an inspired look and back story into the rise of the Batman franchises most notorious super villain.
I really liked the cinematography in this film Its dark yet vibrant. Joaquin Phoenix is such a tremendous actor in general and is somehow still so underrated. He is the Sam Rockwell of actors before Sam Rockwell got all that recognition a few years back. Hes fantastic in this film on all fronts and his insane laugh is instantly memorable. I can see him actually getting a nomination at the Oscars if the academy is willing to honor another comic book film with a portrayal of the Joker once again.
I definitely saw the parallels to Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. The premise is actually quite similar to that of King of Comedy, and even features Robert DeNiro who was the deranged comedy fan in the Scorsese flick. Its no mistake that he’s in this film. I also liked that the film did not shy away from violence and embraced its rating. Its a good ride throughout and was quite an entertaining watch.
Now the social commentary. The film definitely does act on parallels seen today. Health care crisis, crime, mental illness, and class wars is something that is ever present. As a matter of fact I think this was a bold portrayal of mental illness. Sometimes there’s no sense to the actions of the individual. Which brings me to some of the perceived criticisms. I understand about the Aurora theater shooting years ago, but to bash the film just because of the violence it may or may not cause isn’t fair. A lot of critics also didn’t understand the Joker character. This isn’t going to be a very coherent descent into madness, that’s not how the character or mental illness works.
I also saw the lamest critique being not enough strong female characters. Come on, not every film is going to be a feminist battle. Picking too hard and too deep. I can understand not liking the film but we need better arguments as related to social justice than to just align this film with it. Also a lot of the commentaries is super guesswork. You are just making connections to the (weird) incel community and mass shootings. I don’t see the film as being a defense of that or glorifying it. This is a dark and different adaptation of a beloved villain that echoes with modern times.
I think the most satisfying part of the film is knowing that a successful Batman franchise film was created without even featuring Batman or even mentioning the name. Its a stand alone prequel that works so well and gives a breath of fresh air into a character who has been done many times before. I won’t go into comparisons into whose Joker is best but I’m glad we get to see Phoenix’s insanely dark presentation of the character.