Joker: An Insomniac Review

Joker is the 2019 film telling the origin of the iconic Batman villain. It stars Joaquin Phoenix who plays, Arthur Fleck, the would be Crowned Prince of Crime.  He works as a clown for hire and sadly is a lonely, mentally ill guy who feels his tragic life is disregarded by everyone is society. 

You can’t help but feel bad for him because it seems like he cannot catch a break.  From the people he works with to random folks on the street, Arthur is shitted on just about every day.  What little luck he has runs out when the city cuts funding resulting in him losing access to his bare minimum social services and medication. Not to mention, he loses his job too. Despite knowing the Joker all to well from the comics and other adaptations, this movie’s spin is that Joker is actually the protagonist. He doesn’t make you root for him instead he almost makes you want to cry. Some scenes hard to watch even.

It makes me think about people caught up in the system, especially poor people. Even when he kills someone for the first time, it’s not really in malice, it’s self-defense. But that sparks something inside of him that festers and later surfaces by the 3rd act. 

Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is amazing and almost left me speechless!  I mean the guy shed 50+ lbs. for this role! I’m not the first or only to say but this was Oscar worthy… especially with the Academy taking bolder, riskier nominees.  It’s no wonder the reviews following its film festival debuts were so high. I won’t lie I went in with absolutely 0 expectations. 

I knew that Phoenix would deliver but we all know how an amazing performance can still be swallowed up in shitty direction, cinematography, piss-poor writing, and so much more. (We did see the final season of Game of Thrones, right?).

My Take:

Joker is not a kid or family film. It is not the typical comic book adaption we are used to seeing from the DCEU or more popular MCU either.  There are no stylized visuals or CGI-enhanced scenes.  The film is violent but not over the top like some critics would have you believe. It’s not even gory or bloody. It’s mostly grounded in reality, mirroring the true events in New York in the early 80’s when crime and drugs began plaguing the city.

That being said, don’t expect something like Deadpool, which ironically had double the body count but had a kid-like charm to it. This is NOT a film for those wanting to see Avengers or otherwise PG-rated comic inspired films.

The film doesn’t glorify violence, it exposes it and even better it makes you think just how this shitty society we live in can play a role in creating a villain like the Joker. Especially when you look at the crimes today, like mass shootings and corruption.

This flick has the look of an indie film. It’s gritty and has a lot of Martin Scorsese influence woven into it. It’s that same influence that makes the movie strong yet takes away a few points for originality. There are some scenes that are shot for shot copies of popular films like Taxi Driver. Still it’s original enough to stand on it’s own not to mention the gorgeous cinematography that compliments the era of the 70s/80s that it’s set in.

This is a standalone film from the rest of the DC Universe and the way the origin story works here is that it still leaves a lot of the Joker’s beginnings shrouded in mystery.  What’s good about this particular film is that you don’t have to be familiar with DC or even Batman. Aside from Thomas Wayne (Bruce Wayne’s father), there is very little connecting this Joker to the existing Batman universe. And this is why this particular movie works because it doesn’t completely detach itself either.

What always made the Joker a complex adversary to the Dark Knight was that he had no ties to anyone or anything to begin with. The methods to his madness were always shrouded in mystery & choas. You never knew why he was crazy, why he wanted to kill people or why he was so obsessed with Batman.  He just was. This story leaves most of that in tact. Although it gives some insight on his motives, it still leaves us wondering.

The Joker is so unhinged & such a bad narrator… You never know what’s real or a illusion. Unlike most of Batman’s foes or any other comic book villain, Joker was always “The Joker”, for lack of a better word! It’s like he says, his origin is multiple choice. Be it the 1989 Batman, the Gotham tv series or The Dark Knight or any of the graphic stories, the Joker’s true origins are anyone’s guess.

Although Arthur longs for connection and acceptance, we see that any human connection he has is a lie or delusion in his head. Couple that with some serious mental issues, and you go from feeling sorry to feeling fear. Despite wanting to be happy in life with others, the only time he feels like himself or feels joy is when he kills people.

As he spirals more into a creep psychosis, you start to see the Joker we know emerge. But even from the beginning of the film, you can tell that mentally, Arthur has an off-putting persona and that he really doesn’t connect with anyone. His laughter at times is forced at the wrong times either as the result of a laughing condition or just trying to fit in.

The only relationship he has is with his mother and she’s just as delusional as he is. She constantly writes letters to Thomas Wayne because she claims that they had an affair.

The other connection is in his head with his neighbor. She’s a sort of companion to Arthur but as you watch their interaction with each other, you wonder why she’s in the film and then you see a reveal that (spoiler) she never knew him.

There is also his obsession with talk show host, Murray Franklin, who he fantasizes about meeting.

And it is situations like this that make you wonder, how much of this flick even real and how much is in his head. Especially when you have a schizo like Joker at the helm.

All in all, Joker is a fine film…

My vote:

It’s Awesome

Until Next Time Kiddies,

Shalom

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