“Joker,” the newest and perhaps darkest film based on DC material, released on Oct. 4, 2019. The thriller film depicts the story of Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), a failed comedian living in Gotham City with his mother. Arthur suffers from multiple mental illnesses, including severe depression, psychosis, and forced laughter. To add to his sorrowful life, Arthur is abused almost daily by the public at his job as a clown, and faces ostracization due to his illnesses and poor social skills though he only wishes to make others around him laugh and smile. After budget cuts in Gotham’s social services leave him without his therapist or medication, Arthur slowly spirals into madness and crime, intending to teach the oppressive upper class a lesson using horrific violence and rebirthing himself as the Joker. The most praiseworthy aspect of the film, in my opinion, is Phoenix’s stellar acting ability. His portrayal of someone suffering from mental illness is gripping and tragic; he is able to perfectly capture the pain behind each of Arthur’s forced, unnatural laughs perfectly. Additionally, his portrayal of the delight that Arthur receives from inflicting harm upon others is almost tangible, making the audience recoil in disgust each time Arthur taunts one of his victims. Most noteworthy is his ability to get his audience to sympathize with Arthur. The suffering and pain are evident in Phoenix’s dead and hollow tone and the complete and utter defeat he is able to portray. Joaquin’s depressing performance causes the audience to pity Arthur as he goes through a series of bad events, such as being attacked on the street or being fired. The sympathy that Phoenix builds between the audience and Arthur makes it even more disturbing when he begins his violent murder spree and slowly becomes the villain known as the Joker. Phoenix’s acting alone, however, does not make “Joker” as excellent of a film as it is. Laudable screenwriting by Scott Silver and director Todd Philips displays perfectly the spiral into madness that Arthur experiences, and his eventual rise as a symbol of a new revolution. Arthur’s perspective is perfectly reflected in the multiple scenes showcasing his mental illness, and his initial struggle with trying to maintain a happy facade while his life crumbles. Another aspect of the writing I appreciated is the characterization of Thomas Wayne, a character normally portrayed as a benevolent businessman, depicted as more of a greedy and heartless character. His depiction as a cruel businessman fits perfectly with the film’s darker take on Gotham. Though Gotham is depicted as crime-ridden in most media, the Gotham in “Joker” is dirty and disgusting; additionally, a large divide between the privileged rich citizens and its downtrodden poor citizens is emphasized and made a large part of the plot, with Arthur becoming the de facto symbol of a class revolution. The cinematography in “Joker” also blew me away and made the film so much more impactful. Dim lighting gives the film a much more depressing mood. Furthermore, all of Arthur’s murders are made even more disturbing by the wide shots and more plain cinematography. For example, as Arthur kills three businessmen on a train, the static cinematography makes each murder more jarring and disturbing. “Joker,” to put it simply, is an instant classic. Phoenix’s award-worthy performance rivals even Heath Ledger’s iconic portrayal of the Clown Prince of Crime in “The Dark Knight” and easily surpasses Jared Leto’s pitiful perfomance in “Suicide Squad.” Phoenix’s stellar acting and memorable writing from Philips and Silver result in one of the greatest takes on the iconic villain ever portrayed in cinema. Comment down below and visit the front page for more!
Spencer is senior at Dana Hills and he is the Entertainment Section Editor. He is a member of several clubs, including the Surfrider Foundation. In his free time, Spencer enjoys watching classic films, trying new foods, and biking around the city.