I’ve been on comic book movie overload this year. I’ve grown tired of them. The overblown special effects in place of plot. The characters in leather and spandex. The boring, underdeveloped villains. So, I was feeling pretty ambivalent about ‘Joker’.
Then I saw the movie. It takes place in the 1970’s. It’s a gritty and honest portrayal of the unchecked mental illness of Arthur Fleck. He works as a clown for hire through a company that sends clowns out into Gotham to entertain the masses. When the city pulls the funding for his social worker, drugs, and therapist, Arthur is left to his world of fantasies where he is dating his beautiful neighbor and he does a successful comedy routine.
Soon, though, he discovers that he is truly alone. People don’t find him funny. They laugh at him and not with him. Society rejects him. His mother has lied to him his whole life. His comedian idol, Murray Franklin (Robert De Niro), mocks him openly on T.V.. And when a group of men harass him on the subway, he pulls out a gun and does the unthinkable. There is no remorse for his actions, and his downward spiral leads him to do unspeakable acts of violence to those around him.
In the end, he becomes a beacon of hope for the people society has ignored and walked on. He even meets young Bruce Wayne, but only for a moment before Wayne’s father intervenes.
This is the comic book movie I have been waiting for. Since I saw ‘Logan’, I have wanted more of that kind of film. Dark and gritty. It relies on plot and character, not on the spectacle of scenes filmed in front of a green screen. Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is the best of his career. It’s unnerving and Oscar worthy.
‘Joker’ is a film worthy of the cost of a movie ticket.