Saturday, October 26, 2019

[Review] Joker

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then the new Joker movie is worth a thousand jaw drops.

Joaquin Phoenix puts on the clown makeup and suits up as the infamous title character in this dark descent into maniacal madness, and every single second of it is riveting. 

When we’re first introduced to Arthur Fleck (Phoenix), he’s a mentally unstable loner with an uncontrolled laughter condition and a diet of false hopes and desperation. He spends most of his time taking care of his mother, working a penny-paying party clown job, and getting his ass kicked in Gotham City. He’s also an inspiring comedian with dreams of appearing on a late night talk show called Murray (the host is terrifically played by Robert De Niro). And what unwinds is an extremely grimy portrait of how the Joker came to be the Joker. 

This is a deeply disturbing and unsettling watch — the type of thing to make you squirm with discomfort. But it’s also an engrossing character study and a strikingly rendered vision that you can’t look away from but wish you could. It’s a brutal kick to the gut from a sad clown shoe. A rat-infested subway ride to hell. A bombing stand-up set under a pukey pallet of stage lights. It’s a film where face paint mixes with blood. Class warfare, societal ills, and fallen systems litter and permeate the environment like ripped newspaper headlines and hospital records burning in a trash can of flames. 

Phoenix’s performance is absolutely phenomenal. It’s frighteningly great. It’s physically unhinged and hyper-detailed. His appearance is hauntingly gaunt and skeletal. He gracefully sways, swings, and dances like a pile of rattling bones. He’s got a dead-inside smile and the creepiest laugh that will ever pierce your ears. He’s a vessel of dark thoughts and delusion. Every movement, every facial expression demands attention. It’s one of the best cinematic performances of all time. 

There’s never been anything like this in the comic book genre. Todd Phillips’ masterpiece has more in common with films like Taxi Driver and Christine than it even does with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight series. It’s grounded in harsh realities and nightmarish circumstances. And what’s so scary about the Joker is how quickly he can lash out. It just takes a flicker. Just one smile. 

*10/10 *

1 comment:

  1. A "diet of false hopes and desperation" --great description! I agree, thought Joker was an excellent movie, and something I wasn't at all expecting. So much grittier than the other comic book movies I've seen.
    Hard to believe this came on the heels of Phillips directing Old School and Hangover movies.