I feel like more and more films that have released in recent times have created a giant rift in the film community, but none more so than Joker. I’ve seen reviews in both extremes – that it is a masterpiece and an Oscar contender as well as it being an overhyped mess. I kept both in mind when I finally made my way to the theater to find out for myself.
First and foremost, Joaquin Phoenix literally took my breath away in his performance as the title character. As Author Fleck, he was gentle and soft-spoken. Genuinely only wanting to bring laughter to the dilapidated and angry citizens of Gotham City. You could physically feel his tormented soul, especially when he danced. Phoenix performed with his entire body. When he was hunched over stretching his clown shoes, you could feel the wildness within him even though his body reflects that of the abuse victim he was. However, the most visceral feeling I got from the entire film was after Author shot the three men in the subway and locked himself inside the public bathroom. When Author began to dance, you could feel his freedom. You could feel the breath of fresh air he felt. It was truly beautiful. Even the way Author walked after that moment changed. He stood up straighter, no longer cowering to the world.
There were many moments in this film that were extremely hard to watch for me. As someone with a long family history of mental illness, his episodes both broke my heart and gave me palpable anxiety. His fits of laughter while fighting back true tears of sadness had me bracing for the ridicule that he would face. I realized I felt the same while in the midst of my own dealings of mental illness – the trepidation of what was to come. Would someone hurt you for not understanding? Will they mock you? Author suffered all these things.
I thought it was extremely interesting to see the Wayne’s from a different perspective – no loner the saviors of Gotham, but the rich and greedy root of the issue within Gotham. I almost expected a flashpoint scenario when Author first met Bruce outside his mansion. Thomas Wayne is my favorite Batman and almost as violent as Joker so it would have been an interesting matchup. (And yes, I am aware that Martha becomes Joker in flash point, but she obviously was of no importance in this film.)
The moment that solidified this film to me, more than any others, as a true Joker film was when Author stood on the cop car and moved his blood to create his signature smile. That moment was straight out of any Joker comic and I almost wanted to stand and applaud. The visuals in this film are gorgeous but that moment was my favorite.
I am not here to argue that Joker was a perfect film. I would also never condone the violence, or even claim that it was justified. But I will say that the cinematography and the incredible performance of Joaquin Phoenix made it a film that I thoroughly enjoyed