Simple Review: Why so serious?
It hasn’t been a good couple of months for your friendly neighborhood clown. First, he or she has had to deal with that storm drain dwelling Pennywise and now The Joker arrives in cinemas to make clowns the last thing any kid wants to see at their birthday party! It has gotten so bad I saw a clown today in his van trying to give away free candy, the poor fellow. The demise of your local jester, however, has benefited many a filmgoer and, after all, isn’t that what is important nowadays? So let’s turn our attention to the clown prince of crime to see what controversy he has unleashed on the innocent public. Throw on your cowl and cape and let’s track down that green-haired psychopath and ask him, ” What’s with that stupid grin?”
As we begin our journey into this bold review of a movie that has been dissected by every conceivable person on the internet, let me convey to you, my reliable reader, my disbelief that a movie about a comic book character could be the cause of so much angst and consternation. I will deal with the storm of drama surrounding this film as we go along and, to continue my honest streak, this review is probably not going to bring much to the table except to anger those who demand this movie is a masterpiece. Never the less, I will, NAY, I MUST deliver the best review I can possibly give to you because I truly love you all, unlike those other reviewers that simply want more clicks. Now, allow me to share what works and what doesn’t in this story about Arthur Fleck’s journey from a sad loser to the arch-nemesis of the greatest superhero ever!
I am going to get this part out of the way as you have probably read this information ad nauseam, Joaquin Phoenix gives a powerhouse performance as Arthur Fleck/Joker. From the very first scene of the movie, Phoenix grabs your attention and you will constantly be amazed at an actor giving a role everything he has. Joaquin has crafted a performance that brings moments of sympathy for Arthurs’ sad life to making your skin crawl as the Joker begins to emerge from the wreckage that was once Arthur. I cannot remember the last time I have felt physical pain from something a character on the screen was going through, but the way Joaquin conveys just how horrible Arthur’s mental health is brought moments of flat out agony. The way he contorts and twists his body adds extra terror and suspense as his Joker feels like a demon forcing its way out of Arthur’s body to take control of his life. I cannot say enough about Joaquin and what he does with this character and it is worth seeing the movie just to watch him dominate this film. Heath Ledger, however, is still better. ( And Mark Hamill is still the best Joker!)
Joker is, from a filmmaking standpoint, one of the best movies I have seen all year. Director Todd Phillips used the films of Martin Scorsese as a blueprint to build his version of the early 1980s Gotham City. This is a dirty, trashy city that makes you feel like you need to shower after the movie to get the grease and grime off of you. Phillips completely emerses the audience in this world and Arthur’s sad life. I like when excellent comedy directors make the leap to other genres as they know how to use the camera to get everything they can visually out of a scene, as well as knowing how important editing and sound can be to a movie. Did I mention how good this movie is visually? From the camera movements to the color schemes, this film is meticulously crafted and beautiful to watch. I have no doubt that Joker will be a favorite come award season and I see a nomination in Todd Phillips’ future, to go along with his movie’s star.
As well crafted the movie is on the technical side, it is the story that keeps this film from reaching the heights it tries so desperately to hit. There are plot threads that are either not developed or developed so poorly that characters and situations escalate with little or no build-up. Arthur begins his criminal ways in a believable manner but he kills one important character in such an abrupt manner that is played for shock value but only left me confused about how he made that leap from what little he learned about this particular person’s past. ( I apologize for being vague but I am trying my hardest to avoid spoilers) There is a police investigation into Arthur’s bizarre behavior that adds little to the story as it poses no real threat to the Joker. There is a subplot of the rich versus the poor that is so poorly handled that when things explode they make little sense from what you have seen in the film up to that point. Since this is a movie about the Joker, naturally the Wayne’s are involved, and I wish they had only been in the background and not playing a part in Arthur’s life. Having said that, I do like that the Thomas Wayne we get in this film is a departure of what we get in any of the Batman movies. Another thing the screenwriters did well, but I wish they would have pushed the line with more was the blurred line of reality in Arthur’s mind. It was fun having some ambiguity in what Arthur did and how he acted but if they would have pushed that line even further it would have made his turn into the Joker even crazier and more fun to watch.
As we near the end of this review, I hope you will allow me to leave the realm of the theater and enter the world of drama this movie has set into motion. I don’t know why I am asking for permission as it is my blog and you can’t stop me, but it seemed polite to ask. Yes, this is a dark and violent movie that doesn’t hold back in its brutality. It is, however, rated “R” so everyone has been warned. There were kids in the showing I went to and I felt bad for them as their parents should have known this isn’t “that” kind of comic book movie. As for the handling of mental illness, the movie is a bit of mixed bag on the topic as it does show how debilitating it can be for anyone that suffers from these types of extreme mental illnesses. It does, however, seem to use them as reasoning for why Arthur becomes the Joker, which does bring negative connotations to mental illness. I can see both sides of the controversy this creates, but this IS Arthurs’s story and I don’t feel the filmmakers are trying to label mental health as a crutch for a killer to use to blame his actions on. As much negativity that has come from the use of mental illness in the movie, I hope that maybe the film will stimulate more people to seek out help with their own struggles.
My final self-indulgent editorial is on the film reviews for Joker. I try not to read or watch reviews before I write mine on a particular movie, with the only review I watch being from Half in the Bag by the fellows over at Red Letter Media. They are the absolute best at this and they never cease to crack me up! In this day and age of social media, it is difficult to avoid at least reading headlines that proclaim Joker a masterpiece or the greatest film of the year, decade, millennium. I understand it is someone’s opinion, but can we stop all of this type of hyperbolic nonsense as all it does is build these movies up only to lead to a let down when watching it. Most of the greatest movies ever made were not declared such on their initial release and have only become the masterpieces we all adore thought multiple viewings across the years. I appreciate a person’s joy from a particular movie but these bold declarations only serve to make a person who simply likes that movie or, dare I say it, not like the movie into an enemy of the people. It is just stupid and frustrates the hell out of me as there is no hard line of good and bad concerning movies and it is annoying to read reactions of people that use bitter hate when someone simply doesn’t like a movie that has been declared the greatest ever by morons and boring movie nerds like me!
Ok, Ok enough of my ranting as I know you come to my blog for an escape and here I am dragging in the bile from the real world. My apologies but sometimes I have to shout back at the angry mob to protect you, my fellow film fanatic! I wouldn’t call it heroic, but you can I don’t mind. Now back to the end of this Joker review!
Overall, I didn’t enjoy Joker as much as I wanted to. This is not to say it isn’t a beautiful film to watch with one of the best performances of the year, but the story and plot issues keep this from being more than just an OK movie for me. I would recommend seeing it, strangely enough, as it will challenge you as a viewer and in case you didn’t hear, Joaquin is amazing in the role. Oh, and Zazie Beetz is gorgeous!!
I hope you enjoyed this silly review and share it with your friends and families!
As always, thanks for your time!
The Movie Psycho