Pros: Joaquin Phoenix’s demonic performance; an unusual interpretation of a very famous image; visual style of the film; impressive work by the make-up and costume designers Cons: The film creates a feeling of anxiety, it is very uncomfortable to watch Joker / Joker
Director Todd Phillips
Starring Joaquin Phoenix (Arthur Fleck / Joker), Robert De Niro (Murray Franklin), Zazie Beetz (Sophie Dumont), Frances Conroy (Penny Fleck), Brett Cullen (Thomas Wayne), Douglas Hodge (Alfred Pennyworth), Dante Pereira- Olson (Bruce Wayne), etc.
Студии DC Films, Village Roadshow Pictures, Warner Bros.
Year of release 2019
A few familiar place names and names (yes, there’s even Bruce and Alfred) are all that tie Joker to DC comics. Replace them with others, and no one will notice the difference. This story is not at all about how a failed comedian became a sociopathic killer, a hero of the déclassé masses and the implacable enemy of a charismatic billionaire who loves cosplay and gadgets. It is about a lonely, mentally unstable man who is pushed to the very edge by the indifference of society. If you want, Joker is a new interpretation of Joel Schumacher’s Falling Down or Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, which, by the way, also received the Palme d’Or at the 1976 Cannes Film Festival. Joker has fairly direct references to Taxi Driver, and its participation in Both pictures by Robert De Niro only emphasize this connection.
Comic book adaptations have already taught us that they can be deadly serious. Films like Logan, without which Joker might not have existed, V for Vendetta, Sin City, I Kill Giants, or the series The End of the F***ing World and The Boys raise important and very difficult topics and do it no worse than films based on more “serious” sources. But Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix, and the director and actor here are equally the creators responsible for how Joker turned out, raise this bar to some completely unimaginable level.
Joker is the story of failed comedian Arthur Fleck (Joaquin Phoenix), who lives with his elderly mother, obsessed with Thomas Wayne (yes, that one), in a small, run-down apartment in a rough neighborhood; who grabs the most unprestigious job and dreams of one day becoming a stand-up comedian and appearing as a guest on Murray Franklin’s (Robert De Niro) TV show. True, two small obstacles await him on this path. First, Arthur suffers from a mental illness that causes him to have fits of uncontrollable laughter in situations in which he feels uncomfortable. Secondly, Arthur’s jokes are simply not funny, as those around him, including his own mother, do not forget to carefully remind him of. However, this does not stop Arthur from living in his fictional world and continuing to dream, until the real world gives him a series of kicks in the ass, which the already unstable comedian simply cannot withstand. However, the filmmakers handle reality so freely that at a certain point you realize that you cannot say with certainty what really happened in this film and what is a figment of Arthur’s sick imagination or, say, his mother.
Joker is a film that is unsettling and really, really uncomfortable to watch. It is somewhat reminiscent of being in the same room or… in a subway car, with a mentally unstable person who is talking to himself, waving his arms or laughing uncontrollably. A mixture of pity, anxiety, disgust and shame at oneself for this disgust is a very unpleasant feeling that will not leave you for most of the film. The image of Arthur Fleck is truly disturbing, evoking sympathy and repulsive at the same time. The Association of Victims of the 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora (Colorado), which occurred at the premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, not in vain accused the creators of Joker of trying to whiten the image of a psychopathic killer – Joaquin Phoenix’s character is truly a pity. At the same time, he is seriously scary. And this uncomfortable duality of the hero is probably one of the strongest and weakest aspects of the film – after all, no one wants to admit sympathy for a murderer and a psychopath.
Undoubtedly, Joker would not have happened without Joaquin Phoenix. The film’s script was written specifically for this actor, and Todd Phillips spent a lot of time persuading him to take on the comic book project. And Joaquin Phoenix showed everything he is capable of, giving a performance of a downright demonic level. Firstly, in preparation for the film, the actor lost more than 20 kg in a fairly short period of time – in some scenes his body and frightening plasticity are literally physically painful to look at. Secondly, he rehearsed different types of laughter for several months, which allowed him to act literally without words in some scenes, with one laugh that expresses the entire range of emotions, from sarcasm to fear. And thirdly, Joaquin Phoenix is a truly brilliant actor, and his interpretation of the image of the Joker eclipses everything that has been done in this field over the past 30 years, including the work of Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger.
Why, Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix with their film planted a huge pig on DC and Warner Bros., which they seem to have not yet noticed. After Joker, making any films with this character, and therefore with Batman, is simply stupid. The topic is closed, it is no longer possible to say anything more about the Joker. Moreover, Joaquin Phoenix seems to have outsmarted himself. Against the backdrop of the Joker scandal, and even undercover police officers will be present at some screenings in the United States, the film academy will be afraid to nominate the film and the actor for an Oscar. Whether Phoenix will ever be able to outplay himself in Joker in any of his other works is still a big question.
In general, it’s surprising how Todd Phillips, who had previously only made shallow comedies like all three parts of The Hangover / The Hangover or War Dogs / Guys with Guns, managed to come up with something of such a level as Joker. A wonderful coincidence of circumstances, nothing less.
I don’t know what fate awaits Joker, how many awards it will collect at the end of the year (optionally, none at all), how it will perform at the box office (obviously, it can’t compete with the billionaire films from Marvel), but the film by Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix will definitely become a cult film. I can’t say that I recommend watching this film to absolutely everyone; nevertheless, I repeat, this is a very uncomfortable movie, but it is, perhaps, one of the best films made over the past decade.
Undoubtedly one of the most powerful films of recent years, which, nevertheless, is very difficult to watch