Review: JOKER

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Written by Holly

I do not own any of these pictures.

JOKER by Todd Phillips                                                     Released October 4th 2019 Starring Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz

Synopsis:

In Gotham City, mentally-troubled comedian Arthur Fleck is disregarded and mistreated by society. He then embarks on a downward spiral of revolution and bloody crime. This path brings him face-to-face with his alter-ego: "The Joker". - IMDB.com

At this point I think anything I say about Joker has already been deeply discussed and debated online. I’ll keep It short and sweet.

The film has sparked quite a lot of backlash. The main character, a mentally-ill man, becomes violent and (as you expect from the Joker) kills people. It's a dark and heavy character-driven film that explores the complicated and vulnerable mind of Arthur and his journey to becoming the Joker. The visually stunning film is a character study, the landscape let's us understand what kind of world we're in and how that world and its current socio-political events have shaped the main character.

I want this spoiler-free review to include all the elements which, for me personally, set the film aside as one of the best films of the year.

• A character-driven film

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We are subtly reminded through-out the film of the nature of Gotham and the society that Arthur has grown up in. Overall, this is a film that explains the actions of a very troubled character. It paints a picture of a struggling man in a depressing city, whose life perhaps could have been saved were he able to access the help and care he needed much earlier on. He is a victim in many ways (an abusive childhood and a failed psychological support system) but the film doesn’t use this narrative to justify his actions- at least I don’t think so, anyway. It simply paints a detailed picture. Joker definitely makes the audience feel something for Arthur, though, and I think that fact has left many people a little uncomfortable. I lost count of the amount of times my body physically reacted to some of the scenes: my hand jumping up to cover my mouth in shock, in sadness, in pity. It was an emotional film.

Before its release, the US were bombarded with articles about the ‘problematic’ film. The main concern was that Joker would be painted as a hero, an inspiration, someone to look up to- a character who could possibly incite violence in individuals in our society. This is after-all a DC comic-book character. However we have had stories about violent characters for years now- Joker is no different, the character is just more popular. Every new portrayal adds power to the iconic character and another layer to its cultural significance.

Joaquin Phoenix's full-body-goosebump-inducing performance has been highly praised by critics and viewers alike- and rightly so. Without wanting to sound too overly dramatic: Phoenix gave one of the most powerful performances I have ever seen.

• An award-winning performance

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To end this short review I have to talk about Joaquin Phoenix’s performance. It was incredible. Within the first few minutes of the film, we discover Arthur's laugh. It shakes his entire body, it's uncontrollable- you can almost feel the pain as he attempts to stifle it. The noises in his chest and mouth and throat as he attempts to gain some control are horrific. From the very beginning we learn that this is going to be a very 'physical' performance. The pivotal scene in the film relied on this kind of physicality to tell the story. No words. Just Joker, alone, moving his body, dancing. Phoenix does an exceptional job through-out but I particularly enjoyed these silent sequences. The praise belongs also to the camera-work, the set-design and the soundtrack, everything just came together perfectly. For me, a successful film is a film that can tell a story without laying it out, word for word, for the audience. That's boring, and leaves no room for interpretation - which is probably one of the major reasons why I enjoyed the film so much. It was clean, uncomplicated, but not simple. I bloody loved it. I hope this film challenges people’s perception of ‘superhero’ movies. I’m not entirely sure Joker qualifies as a superhero movie at all but you can’t deny the fact that the superhero genre continues to develop and change into something much more complex than the traditional good vs. evil.

There is so much to say about this film, and I left out a lot from this review because the more intricate details deserved to be explored to their fullest extent. I feel a character-study coming up soon! For now however, I hope this review persuades you to see the film. I believe Phoenix deserves the Oscar.

Holly x

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Written by Summer:

Unfortunately I only got to see the film a week after it’s initial release date - and needless to say this film has been excruciatingly dissected and debated by critics. For that reason alone I didn’t feel the need to share a thorough review, instead writing a quick one at the end of Holly’s. Because of all the noise surrounding the film, I feared I wouldn’t enjoy it or that my viewing experience would be heavily impacted by what I had already read and heard; but I enjoyed it. Really, really enjoyed it.

JOKER follows the tragic events that lead to Arthur Fleck’s descent (and embrace) in to chaotic madness. A series of life-changing events unfold, a relentless downwards spiral further intensified by the gritty and turbulent streets of his home Gotham City. Joaquin Phoenix gives a raw, Oscar worthy performance as the infamous character who suffers from a mental-illness, and unable to access the help that may have been able to put him on a better path. Phoenix dropped 50 pounds for the role, giving him a gaunt and distressed appearance which made the more physical sequences (including that uncontrollable laugh) in the film even more impactful. As Arthur, Phoenix is slightly hunched over in his gait, his movements rigid. As Joker, his posture and stride improves. A character-study of one of pop-culture’s most iconic villains by one of most revered method actors of his generation, JOKER is a must-see for Phoenix’s performance alone.

The cinematography was equally satisfying: from symbolic scenes of Arthur slowly, almost painstakingly climbing the stairs to Joker freely dancing down them, descending into madness; the haunting score which allowed the tension and dread to build until the climactic talk show scene at the end of the film. All in all, a remarkable production all round.

What are your thoughts on the film?

Summer

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