Director: Todd Phillips
Duration: 2hr 2minutes
Genre: Crime, Rated R
Writing Credits: Todd Phillips & Scott Silver.
Joaquin Phenix – Arthur Fleck
Robert De Niro – Murray Franklin
This film deserves Oscar wins, not just nominations, for Lead Actor, Cinematography, and Original Score. It is visually beautiful and the music serves as a perfect supporting actor to enhance the insanity into which Arthur Fleck degenerates. Society causes an already mentally ill fellow to finish losing his mind and digress from wanting to spread joy and laughter throughout the world to wanting to kill those he feels have ill-treated him.
Phoenix’s performance is not necessarily better than Heath Ledger’s, but it is more fascinating, and that’s saying something because I never really expected anyone to top any aspect of Ledger’s take on Joker. I consider Ledger’s Joker a bit more sadistic, but that’s only because now we know one vision of where Joker came from. The most fun aspect of the character is that you can play him any way you want and it’s still correct. He might tell you a knock-knock joke or he might shoot your daughter through the spine just to see the look on your face. And anything in between.
There really are no words to express how good this movie is. It is as perfect a film, in its genre, most of the critics might despise this one because it appears to be a social commentary on what a mentally ill loner will do if society pushes him too far. Many critics call it dangerous because it may encourage some – well, mentally ill loner out there – to do what he sees Joker do in the movie.
And in a way, those are truthfully enforceable. Because it tells the truth. Anyone who hates this movie as a social commentary is probably part of the problem our society has right now. The film sympathizes with Fleck for a good reason: if society had treated him better, he wouldn’t have become the evilest monster in the history of comic book literature.
Phoenix is genuinely nail-biting in every single scene and the intensity gets tighter and tighter toward the end until it becomes absolutely unbearable during the scene on the Murray Franklin Show when Joker appears as a guest. De Niro may also deserve an Oscar nod. He supports the lead performance with perfect experience.
How do I summarize such a masterpiece? If I had to use only one word, I think I’d say “devastating.” But there’s more to it than that. It’s equal parts gritty crime drama, comic book movie, and horror movie.
Those who call it “too dark, too violent and bloody” must not have understood what they were getting into when buying a ticket to see any kind of film about the Joker character. He’s dark and violent in the comic books. We live in an age of PG-13, which permits a larger audience and thus more money, but this film is no bloodier or violent than the average nasty action movie from the ’80s and early ’90s. The difference is that the violence hits hard! If you can bear it, this film’s violence is a walk in the park.
You will leave the theater feeling devastated, overwhelmed by its magnificence, and yes, you’ll feel inspired, but not to commit acts of violence. This film does not glorify mental illness. It doesn’t just try to speak to the hidden anger of lonely, anti-social white guys who really need to vent their anger and frustration. It tells the entire world the following, a very simple statement: the mentally ill need to be helped, loved, hugged, encouraged to seek treatment, can be either in medication or therapeutic conversations. They need to be shown in some way that there’s no shame in being mentally ill. The only shame is in not seeking help.
In the end, Joker tells Murray Franklin, on live TV, “What do you get when you cross a mentally ill loner with a society that abandons him and treats him like trash? I’ll tell you what you get! “You get that, what you **** deserve!??” Then he blows Franklin’s brains out.
It’s unfortunate. It’s painful and deplorable to look at. But Fleck is right!.