Forever alone in a crowd, failed comedian Arthur Fleck seeks connection as he walks the streets of Gotham City. Arthur wears two masks – the one he paints for his day job as a clown, and the guise he projects in a futile attempt to feel like he’s part of the world around him. Isolated, bullied and disregarded by society, Fleck begins a slow descent into madness as he transforms into the criminal mastermind known as The Joker.
The Joker is one of the most well-known movie characters in the world, most people will know him as a crazy villain who the late Heath Ledger played in The Dark Knight. This time though, Joaquin Phoenix plays the character in one of the most highly anticipated films of the year, what’s interesting about this film is that it purely focuses on the Joker, there’s no Batman (kinda), no Harley Quinn and definitely no fights – but what this film does have is a really in-depth story which focuses on Arthur’s story and a lot of breathtaking scenes which make the film feel amazing. Without giving too much away too early on, I’ll get onto the main question. Was this film a bad joke or does it end up being a funny one? Here are my thoughts.
All good films start off by gripping us right from the beginning and not letting us go until after the credits, ‘Joker’ does this perfectly in its own strange way – the choice to implement a voiceover which describes how run down Gotham is and how unhappy it’s people are whilst Arthur puts on his makeup is great, simply because it builds up his character really well and instead of jumping into his criminal actions, the film slowly builds up the anger from residents which allows us to have a really smooth transition from normal life of Arthur to him ultimately becoming the Joker we know at the end. This is really beneficial and creates an important and useful theme right at the very beginning of the film which helps to really make the characters feel intense and multidimensional, seeing Arthur dressed up as a clown, getting his sign stolen and then beaten up gives us a strong message that he has a very sad and depressed life very early on in the film, this is actually really good because it helps to give us sympathy for his character, throughout the film we want him to win and even at the end as he becomes more villainous, it still feels satisfying to see him happy and appreciated because of how in-depth the film goes to show him as an outcast.
These types of scenes (which are very prominent early on) not only feel really powerful for us to see how badly society treats him but they are a clever way of actually getting us to essentially be in his little bubble which immerses us in his world – making his character feel really exciting and entertaining. His character feels incredibly immersive and complex though, simple things like his uncontrollable laughing fits, and his violent rages are really helpful in showing how crazy and deranged his character is.
A great element which helps to support this is the dialogue – this film is full of powerful lines like “is it just me or is everyone getting crazy out there?” Which really help to establish Arthur as a strange and clearly challenged individual, we all know that the Joker is crazy but the way in which this film shows that personality to us before he becomes criminal is just amazing, because seeing how he visions things like himself being on the Murray Franklin show and being praised, as well as his really immersive and actually quite believable – (I didn’t figure out that she barely knew him and it was all in his mind until after the film) relationship with the woman in his flat. Scenes like these help to show Arthur as a really troubled and kinda messed up individual and the way in which this is related to us, as he gets worse and worse throughout the film until he kills 3 men and creates the climax of the film – is expertly done to really allow us to understand how his life has affected his personality and characteristics.
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