Directed by: Todd Phillips
Written by: Todd Phillips, Scott Silver, based on characters created by Bob Kane, Bill Finger Jerry Robinson
Featuring: Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Brett Cullen, Shea Whigham, Bill Camp, Glenn Fleshler
Arthur Fleck is a struggling comedian making a living as a street-clown spinning advertising boards in Gotham City. He has bigger problems though. He lives with his mother and has severe mental problems, slowly things conspire to bring Arthur to the point of breaking and after his medication is stopped due to budget cuts and he has a shocking revelation about his mother something is going to happen to Arthur and Gotham that will shape the future forever…
First things first, no matter what the makers and actors would like to you to think this is a comic book movie, it is set in the DC world of Batman. Clearly Phoenix and director Phillips want this to be a dark, gritty, realistic tale of spiralling mental health and how it affects a man who becomes an iconic criminal from the series.
I get the feeling that Phillips wanted to make Taxi Driver and could only get it made if he strapped it onto Batman. The Batman references are shoehorned in and for me stuck out like a sore thumb. Arthur’s mother, Thomas Wayne, Arthur Fleck triangle does not really work and makes little sense. Without these connections you would still have an entertaining if flawed story of a man’s descent into madness.
Therein lies the rub. Another story where a serious mental health problem instantly means that murder and enjoying murder is the final outcome. It is derivative, boring and overall gives a poor view of mental illness for those that have little experience of it. My sister and her husband were senior mental health nurses and yes there were a few cases of murder that they knew about it but even they were pathetic and hopeless individuals. Yes I know it is a fiction, yes I know it is Joker and an origin story but for goodness sake come up with something new, something different, something thousands of other films have not done.
The actors from all the cast are good, Phoenix, whilst always a bit over-the-top if allowed to be, is showy but sincere and good, the murky dark and unpleasant seedy side of ‘Gotham’ is realised well and looks good, so far, so Mean Streets.
I particularly liked the dynamic between Penge and his mother, a very impressive Frances Conroy, and his work colleagues, but if we are to go down the rabbit hole of psychotic genius where was this part of Arthur’s character in the film and also come to think of it I could not really tell the difference between Arthur on his medication and Arthur not on his medication.
The good points of Joker make the film watchable and enjoyable so do not think this is a hate piece by an old man, but the plot points, the story dynamics certainly drive credibility to a stretching point. Afterall it has been repeatedly stated this is an adult film for grown-ups in a Batman world.
There is story device, that is made to drive a point home, that once it clicks into play, is so obvious, seen so many times before in so many films, that if you are any type of ‘film fan’ you will call it out the minute it happens. It is not as clever or amazing as some people think.
As with most exciting crime and murderous intrigue films how Arthur gets to interact with important characters, particularly characters who he would get little access to, borders on a small child’s logic, it becomes close to being comically funny.
Once again I find that with most modern ‘masterpieces’ it is not in any way a masterpiece and if you have seen a lot of films you have seen it all before. Like most films made nowadays it could have done with some ‘sympathetic to the audience’ editing.
If it seems like I hated the film then do not be fooled it is not entirely true, I enjoyed watching the story unfold and even the graphic violence did not bother me. In the entire running time three moments really took me out of the story and I strongly believe they could have been handled better but that is a personal opinion.
The only argument you will truly get from me is on two points, the mental illness aspect is tired and hackneyed and this is no masterpiece.
Overall if you are looking for something different from the DC world of Batman this is recommended but if you looking for a dark cinematic masterpiece I hope you find it but I think quite a few might disagree that Joker is that thing.