“Joker” is the latest film to delve into psyche and origins of Batman’s greatest and most popular foe. Todd Phillips directed as well as co-wrote the script with Scott Silver. Juaquin Phoenix plays the hapless inspiring comic named Arthur Fleck who is barely making ends meet in 1981 Gotham as a clown for hire while living with his mother. Frances Conroy, Robert De Niro, and Brett Cullen are also included in the cast.
Some are touting this as some sort of masterpiece. Although I would hesitate to go that far because I am just that cynical, I will say that it does have some fairly fascinating moments. Phoenix was absolutely the right choice to take us on that journey with someone clearly struggling with mental health at the beginning and descends into utter psychosis. Fleck is someone with whom one can have some sympathy for through much of the film until the killings start.
The cinematography was well thought as well. The grime of some parts of Gotham were quite convincingly depicted. Actually there wasn’t much seen of the more opulent sections of the iconic fictional city. Although Batman is not seen or realized in this installment, the foreshadowing for one of the most famous comic book rivalries is quite cleverly laid out.
The film is a little slow at times though, and it’s a pretty depressing affair to sit through for the most part. That may be the intent of the writers and producers this time, but it’s a comic book movie, so some break in the tension would still be welcome. Heath Ledger may still be my personal favorite of Joker depictions in recent years, however the praise for Phoenix’s performance is also well-earned.
Even if I don’t necessarily agree with the masterpiece designation by some for this film, it still was a long way from being disappointing.