JOKER (2019) – My rating: 9/10

Joker is a psychological thriller directed by Todd Phillips, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scott Silver. The film is based on DC Comics’ character, the Joker produced by Warner Bros. Pictures. An origin story set in 1981, the film follows Arthur Fleck, a failed stand-up comedian who turns to a life of crime and chaos in Gotham City. The trailers were vague but issued warnings of a dark movie that earned Joker an ‘R’ rating. While dark, Joker gave an in-depth look into an infamous character we never imagined.

In 1981, party clown Arthur Fleck/Joker (Joaquin Phoenix) lives with his mentally ill mother, Penny Fleck (Frances Conroy), in Gotham City. Penny is always asking Arthur to check the mail for a response to her letters, hoping that Thomas Wayne (Brett Cullen), her former employer, who is “rich and kind,” will rescue them from poverty. Gotham is rife with crime and unemployment, leaving segments of the population disenfranchised and impoverished. Arthur has hopes of making it big one day in a comedy club as a stand-up comedian. Arthur doesn’t know his mother is mentally ill or that he’s adopted or that she thinks Thomas Wayne is his father. Additionally, Arthur is suffering from malnutrition and has no friends or any other family. He also suffers from a neurological disorder that causes him to laugh at inappropriate times and depends on a social services program for his medication. Funding cuts close the social services program, leaving Arthur without any meds. While working as a hired clown, a gang of young boys attacks him causing Arthur’s co-worker, Randall (Glenn Fleshler), to lend him a gun. While entertaining at a children’s hospital, the gun falls out of Arthur’s pocket and he is fired. After being questioned by police, Randall lies and says that Arthur bought the gun himself. While on the subway, still in his clown makeup, Arthur was beaten once again, this time, by three drunken Wayne Enterprise businessmen. This is the beginning of the end for Arthur who becomes the Joker. There is a lot more story to come as his transformation becomes final.

Joker is a dark and sad story of the life of Arthur Fleck and how he becomes one of DC Comics’ most popular villains. While I’m not a fan of Batman, origin stories can be a good way to revitalize a story that’s been told over and over, enticing new fans to the franchise. Joaquin Phoenix is a tremendous actor, who has really shown the depth of his acting talent in Joker. Every frame was so believable, I really felt as if I knew Arthur/the Joker. In comparison to the TV series, Gotham, I could now relate to the chaos and living conditions in this story. From the riots to the murders, Gotham’s mayhem is understandable. Joaquin has joined the best of the best-played Jokers: Jack Nicholson – Batman (1989); Cameron Monaghan – Gotham TV series – (2015-2019) and Heath Ledger – The Dark Knight (2008). I was shocked to see how thin Joaquin had become, as he lost a whopping 52 pounds to create an authentic character and based his laugh on videos of people suffering from pathological laughter. Joker has grossed $272 million worldwide and set box office records for an October release. I think Joker was brilliantly acted, told a great and haunting story, created excellent cinematography scenes, made Phoenix’s make-up look awesome, and was directed flawlessly. I highly recommend Joker to those who love comic series and those who are not bothered by the warnings of darkness and violence in a movie. Check It Out!

[JOKER is Oscar-Nominated for Best Actor, Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, Best Original Score, Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing and Best Adapted Screenplay — Totaling 11 Oscar nominations]

 

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