When the trailer for Joker dropped earlier this year, everyone was understandably excited. There was the great Joaquin Phoenix in the lead, there were stylized shots that looked like a gritty, realistic version of the villain from the Batman comics, and there was the Sinatra-themed soundtrack. Unfortunately, while the film delivered on all these elements, the overall story simply isn’t as convincing as one hoped it would be.
To be sure, the visual image of the film is impressive, especially Joker’s costume and make-up, which reflects his character development, his journey of self-discovery. The seedy streets of Gotham, with trash bags piling up in every dark side alley and class tensions rising, also seem like a fitting breeding ground for Joker’s peculiar brand of anarchism and mayhem.
In this squalor, we meet Arthur Fleck, a poor clown with mental health problems who takes care of his mother and dreams of becoming a stand
Joaquin Phoenix does a wonderful job in his portrayal of the frail and tormented man who will become one of the most interesting villains ever. His twisted posture, the choking involuntary laughter, the brooding, defeated facial features, as well as the dancing of his clown persona, bring the character to life in a very physical way.
Add to this some other notable casting choices, including Robert de Niro in the role of Arthur’s idol, talk show host Murray Franklin, or Marc Maron in a cameo as Franklin’s producer. The best casting choice, though, was to cast the very funny stand-up comedian Gary Gulman in the role of “random comedian at the club” who does a set on stage while Arthur listens. However, the jokes were actually Gulman’s real-life jokes, not something written specifically for the movie, which may be great publicity for the comedian, but shows some laziness on the part of the writers.
This brings us to the biggest problem with Joker. Director and co-writer Todd Phillips, famous for his Hangover trilogy, at
In the end, one does not get the sense of closure, despite the film trying to convince us there is one; and while the Joker comes into his own as a character, it is not the quick-witted madman we’ve come to know and love, but a different sort of madman altogether.
‘Joker’ premieres in cinemas October 4.