Directed by Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Francis Conroy, Brett Cullen
Runtime: 122 minutes
Rating: R (for strong language and violence,sexual imagery, and disturbing behavior )
Most of us have seen some rendition of the Joker. Whether it be in the 60s Batman series featuring Cesar Romero, the classic Jack Nicholson, Heath Ledger, the animated Mark Hamill, or even Jared Leto. Everyone has favorites. Would this new rendition live up to the others or fall flat akin to Leto’s Joker. Arriving at the cinema I knew going in this would be a dark film. Thankfully I’ve started taking yoga so my mindset was prepared. I thought. We see my guy JeVon, and he tells me as my brother and I are walking in. “In this film you sympathize with the Joker.” We will see.
Onto the film.
We start with a retro-feel to the title, and we see Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) applying makeup. He would be this film’s Joker. The feeling I took from this opening scene was a somber one. The music was slow, and steady, and it just felt like a slow tension was beginning to boil. Fleck works for a company that employees various artists to put on shows for kids (circus acts) Seeing the inter workings of this organization I wrote in my notes. Gangsters. The director known for mainly comedies (The Hangover series) put forth a gritty film, that felt truly more like a gangster film than a “superhero” one.
We then see Fleck going about his life. He visits his therapist and tells her “I don’t want to feel bad anymore” and to increase his medication. She also tells him he needs to keep working on his journal. Work on those journals people. You see from his writing its chaotic. In the beginnings you feel for Fleck and his troubles. He
lives/takes care of his mother Penny Fleck (Conroy) and you can tell his love for her is only rivaled by his fascination with a Johnny Carson like talk show starring Murray Franklin (De Niro) He dreams of being on his show and being a stand-up comic. An issue with Fleck though is he has a condition. Whenever he is uncomfortable or scared he laughs. He uncontrollably laughs and I’ll tell you right now it makes you feel as uncomfortable as he does.
We see Arthur’s life continue to fall into a pit of despair. Without giving too much away things spiral out of control. This is where the film takes off. We see a man unhinged destroying everything. I felt the pacing did stall in a few scenes but overall it kept the heart-racing albeit not as fast (thanks Yoga Club) and the tension filled the room. The film keeps asking the audience how far will he go?
I wanted to give this film 5 stars but there were a few issues that knocked it down. I will start with some positives the score of this film is brilliant. As you know, I appreciate cinema where the music/score adds to the scenes. This happened throughout, although towards the end it felt to me that the same music was being used. Maybe on purpose, but it took me out of the film for a second. The cinematography worked as well. We see several scenes on the subway, and every few seconds the lights go out as the subway passes which added to the tension on the screen.
My two complaints were with the side stories added in. We meet Thomas Wayne (Cullen) yes Batman’s dad. He’s running for mayor and while this storyline does give a bit of depth to the film I felt like his scenes dragged on and felt forced. We also get a love interest in Fleck’s neighbor Sophie Dumond (Beetz) This also felt forced. We get it. Fleck’s life is terrible. Adding a love interest to an already doomed life was overkill. That doesn’t mean this film was poorly acted. Across the board the actors all shine. I expect an Oscar nomination for Joaquin Phoenix in this film, if not a win. Go out and see it, but make sure you’re in a good mood beforehand. I left the film looking at things a touch dimmer on the drive home. Good entertainment but VERY SHOCKING. 4 stars out of 5 #SHOPLOCAL
Andrew McManus is Operations Manager for Patties & Pints and its parent company Eflow Development.He can be reached at [email protected] or 740-981-9158