This review is spoiler-free.
I’m going to say it … Joker is the best film of 2019. I remember being so underwhelmed when news broke that we were getting a solo Joker movie. I thought we’d seen so much of the character, so many brilliant incarnations of him that we really didn’t need to travel down that road again. Boy was I wrong!
This film is stunning in every way imaginable. It’s bold and imaginative and takes this character, shines a huge light on him and gives us something we haven’t seen before. The Joker is quite possibly the defining comic book villain. From DC to Marvel and everything in between, everyone knows who he is! He’s synonymous with his villainous actions, but the way he is portrayed through Todd Phillips’ storytelling makes you see him in a whole new light.
Here we have a man with some serious mental health issues and quite evidently a learning disability too. He’s awkward and makes people around him feel extremely uncomfortable. The only real-life relationship he has is with his Mother (Frances Conroy) and there’s something very creepy in the bond they share. He craves love and warmth from other places and envisions talk show host, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro) as a father figure. He also takes an unhealthy interest in his neighbour, Sophie (Zazie Beetz). He’s a victim who just can’t find a way to fit in with society and has spent his whole life feeling like the outsider. Feeling like he’s never had one moment of enjoyment in any of the experiences he’s had.
Todd Phillips deviates from the source material and really tells the tale of Arthur Fleck rather than Joker. Comic book fans generally like things to be done properly and stories to be told in the correct way. This doesn’t matter in Joker. The liberties Phillips took with his storytelling works, giving a character we are so familiar with, so much extra context. The Waynes feature throughout the movie and whilst they aren’t the main focus, it gives the film some familiar ground in Gotham which was very much welcome. The casting is spot on. Robert De Niro is charming as Franklin, emulating an all American talk show host at the top of his game. Frances Conroy is excellent and as is it becomes more and more evident that she has issues of her own, her performance gets better and better. My only complaint about Zazie Beetz is that she wasn’t used more, she is great.
Lastly and most importantly let’s get onto Joaquin Phoenix. I truly feel like Joaquin has given the performance of a lifetime in this film. He didn’t play the Joker – he WAS the Joker and that’s the biggest compliment I can verbalise right now. Every face he pulls, every movement he makes has meaning. He’s just mesmerising. Heath Ledger, Jack Nicholson and Cesar Romero have all given such different interpretations of the Joker in the past. All iconic and impressive in their own right (yes I’m not mentioning Jared Leto on purpose) and Joaquin gives us yet another version which stands tall against those other great performances and which will too, go down in history. Utterly unforgettable. His cackle/ laugh is superb and there are moments he flits between laughing and crying so seamlessly that it’s like he’s created a new emotion where the two merge into one. The last 10 minutes feature very little dialogue from him and yet they stand out in my mind as some of the most prolific.
I could talk about this film for hours and hours but I don’t want to spoil a single thing for anyone who hasn’t seen it. It’s the kind of film that we will still be obsessed within 10 years time. Forget Joker’s connection to the superhero genre, this is a film about a man who has struggled his entire life to establish any type of genuine happiness. He’s been failed by the system, even his therapist has no interest in him and he’s pushed and prodded until he hits back. And the most worrying thing about that is the relief and satisfaction on his face after inflicting pain. I really feel like the people finding fault in it just don’t understand it. This is a film you can’t afford to miss.
What did you think of Joker? Let us know in the comments!