Todd Phillips’ ‘Joker’ sets the scene of a grim rundown and politically divided city of Gotham. Living here, is Arthur Fleck, who we come to see is an unsuccessful clown and later an unsuccessful stand-up comedian. He is constantly struggling against being oppressed and abandoned by society, the rich and those in power. While trying to find any hope but failing, Fleck spirals down a dark rabbit hole to become the infamous Joker.
Joaquin Phoenix offers a stellar performance as Joker/Arthur Fleck where you can’t keep your eyes off him, even if at times you want to. Comparable to the gritty realistic setting of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy, Phoenix’s performance is dark and tragic as he portrays Fleck’s descent into madness and bloody violence. Phoenix’s acting is consistent and at times creepy as he takes to the stand for his portrayal of the infamous Batman villain.
The film’s tone is constantly bleak, but highlights the struggles that the underprivileged may face when they are crushed by the powerful. It suggests the idea that Joker’s descent into madness may have been prevented if he was properly helped. Perhaps avoiding the traditional comic book movie trope, Joker is an unsettling drama fixed upon real struggles which gradually lead to chaos.
The score of the film has been somewhat controversial, however subtracting this from the equation, it was fitting and boosted the darkness of the film. Combined with Phoenix’s acting, it made for an engrossing and mesmerising viewing.
As the Joker does not have a fixed origin story, the film was really able to run wild with different twists and turns to form the events that lead to the Joker becoming the Joker. I felt that all of these incidents worked well at pushing an already mentally unstable Fleck to the edge. The origin story created here was a plausible and believable take on the Clown Prince of Crime. It didn’t seem far-fetched or out of character, which was elevated even more by Phoenix’s incredible performance.